Angels shortstop Erick Aybar returns to the dugout during an exhibition… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)
Reporting from Chicago
Injuries have plagued the Angels, who have half their regular infield and two-fifths of their rotation on the disabled list less than three weeks into the season.
But they could be improving soon. Shortstop Erick Aybar, who played three games before going on the disabled list because of a strained muscle in his left ribcage, will make a brief rehab assignment with the Angels' triple-A affiliate before rejoining the team in Texas this week. He could be back in the lineup as early as Tuesday, Manager Mike Scioscia said.
"Erick Aybar is going to play a couple of games in the batter's box just to turn the bat loose. But he feels good so we'll look at him sometime in the Texas series," Scioscia said.
Aybar played six innings in the field without incident during an extended spring training game at the Angels' complex in Arizona last week.
Left-hander Scott Kazmir, who was sent home to Houston — reportedly to work out problems with his delivery — is to rejoin the team in Dallas on Monday though he is not eligible to be reactivated until later in the week. Kazmir's official reason for being on the disabled list is lower back soreness.
Meanwhile right-hander Joel Pineiro (shoulder stiffness) and first baseman Kendrys Morales (broken ankle) are expected to continue their rehab exercises in Arizona.
Maicer Izturis had three hits in each game of the weekend series with the Chicago White Sox, going nine for 14 and raising his average to .383. The switch-hitter, who doubled and scored twice Sunday, has hit in 11 of the 12 games he has started this season, collecting multiple hits in seven of them to lead the team in average hits (23) and doubles (seven).
Fernando Rodney, who lost his closer's job when he blew a save in his second appearance of the season, is pitching well enough to get his old spot back. The right-hander breezed through another perfect eighth inning Sunday, giving him six consecutive scoreless outings in which he's allowed just a pair of hits.
Meanwhile rookie Jordan Walden, who replaced Rodney at the back of the bullpen, loaded the bases in the ninth inning Sunday before escaping with his third save.
Hank Conger may be a rookie, but he's already thinking like a veteran.
After Gavin Floyd bounced four breaking pitches to Angels slugger Mark Trumbo on Saturday, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper jogged to the mound for a visit. Standing in the on-deck circle, Conger had a pretty good idea what Cooper's message was: Throw a strike.
So he swung from the heels at the first pitch, pulling a three-run home run deep into the right-field bleachers.
"He threw three or four straight sliders to Trumbo. So I figured he was probably going to come after me with the heater," Conger said Sunday. "I was kind of getting beat on fastballs. So I figured that they were going to try to pound me in."
Reliever Scott Downs never made it to the ballpark in Chicago, staying back at the team hotel with a stomach virus. An equipment manager cleaned out his locker early Sunday and the team expects the left-hander to rejoin them in Texas on Monday.