Reporting from Kansas City, Mo. -- One game, it appears Scot Shields is close to regaining the form that made him one of baseball's best relievers from 2004-2008, the next he looks so shaky he seems on the verge of being released.
That's how erratic Shields has been in his return from left-knee surgery that sidelined him for most of 2009.
The right-hander allowed one hit and struck out two in a scoreless inning Monday; he was tagged for two runs and three hits in an inning Friday against Seattle.
Shields has a 6.48 earned-run average in 19 games and has allowed 18 hits, walked 17 and struck out 17 in 16 2/3 innings.
"I don't know what's gone wrong," Shields said. "I have no idea, to be honest with you. All I'm worried about is how I'm throwing now, and I have felt better the last two weeks."
The velocity of Shields' fastball is down, and he's still searching for a comfortable delivery and consistent release point.
But Shields said his knee is sound, and despite some rocky outings, the big picture has brightened. Since opening with a 14.54 ERA in six games, he's allowed five earned runs in 12 1/3 innings of his last 13 games for a 3.65 ERA.
"He's getting close to being the guy we can count on," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "We're trying to build off the good ones."
Trusting Shields in the late innings with a narrow lead is another matter. Manager Mike Scioscia is still limiting Shields to low-impact, low-pressure situations.
"His breaking ball is sharp, and he's feeling more confident about his ability to get the ball in good zones," Scioscia said. "There are some inconsistencies, but he's moving in the right direction."
Nady on radar
Add Xavier Nady to the list of potential trade targets for the Angels in their quest to replace first baseman Kendry Morales, who broke a bone above his left ankle in a freak mishap while leaping onto home plate in celebration of his walk-off grand slam Saturday.
Nady, 31, signed a one-year, $3.3-million deal with the Chicago Cubs after missing most of 2009 because of elbow surgery. The outfielder has started 60 big league games at first base.
Nady has been eased back into action this season, hitting .263 in 38 games with three home runs and 13 runs batted in, but he is not expected to claim a starting spot in the Cubs' outfield. He went four for four with a two-run homer Tuesday night against Pittsburgh.
Among the other possible trade targets for the Angels are Paul Konerko ( White Sox), Adam LaRoche (Diamondbacks), Lance Berkman (Astros), Ty Wigginton (Orioles), Russell Branyan (Indians) and Adam Dunn (Nationals).
Morales, meanwhile, is still waiting for the swelling in his leg to subside enough to undergo surgery, which could knock him out for the rest of the season. The Angels hope Morales, who fractured his fibula, will return in September.
Morales spoke by phone Monday with teammate Juan Rivera, who was limited to 14 games in 2007 after breaking two bones in his left leg in a winter league game.
"It took six to seven months to heal, but it will be easier for Kendry," Rivera said. "He's younger, he'll heal quicker, and he broke one bone; I broke the fibula and the tibia."
Catcher Jeff Mathis, out since April 20 because of a broken bone in his right wrist, took early batting practice Tuesday and expects to begin a rehabilitation assignment with triple-A Salt Lake on Friday or Saturday.
Buy Angels tickets here
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.