Angels pitcher Scott Downs will miss at least half of the first month of the… (Mark Duncan / Associated…)
Reporting from Scottsdale, Ariz. — X-rays confirmed that Scott Downs suffered a broken bone in his left big toe Sunday night, an injury that will force the Angels reliever to open the season on the disabled list and sideline him until at least mid-April.
How the veteran left-hander hurt himself is a bit of a mystery.
"I was just playing around with the kids; let's keep it at that," said Downs, who has an 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. "The timing couldn't be any worse. Hopefully, I'll be back sooner rather than later."
Mike Scioscia was "absolutely" satisfied with Downs' explanation, but the manager may want to impose a no-sandals rule. Downs was wearing open-toed footwear when he was hurt.
"We've all worn flip-flops," Scioscia said, "and we know things can happen."
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Downs, a former Toronto reliever who signed a three-year, $15-million deal in December, thought he stubbed his toe at first, but when he woke up Monday the toe was swollen and discolored.
The Angels sent Downs to Southern California to be examined Tuesday, and the fracture, in a small bone near the tip of the toe, was discovered. No timetable was given for a return, but surgery is not necessary.
Downs, one of the team's primary setup men, can play catch and ride a stationary bike, though he will be in a protective boot for several days. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
"Everyone has those freak accidents," said Downs, who went 5-5 with a 2.64 earned-run average in 67 games last season and hadn't allowed a run in four innings this spring.
It wasn't Downs' first freak injury. In 2009, he sprained the same toe breaking out of the batter's box in an interleague game at Philadelphia and he went on the DL twice because of the injury, missing six weeks.
"It was my only at-bat in the big leagues," Downs said, "and it will be my last."
Right-handers Jason Bulger and Rich Thompson, who are both out of options and can't be sent to the minor leagues without clearing waivers, could benefit from the injury.
Five relievers — Fernando Rodney, left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen, Jordan Walden and Michael Kohn — appear to be locks, and Bulger and Thompson are competing for the sixth spot. If the Angels open with 12 pitchers — and seven relievers — Thompson and Bulger could both make the team.
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Kendrys Morales, who is recovering from a broken lower left leg, was supposed to begin running and making turns on grass Tuesday. The first baseman did not make turns Tuesday or Wednesday, casting further doubt the slugger will be ready by opening day.
"It's not a setback; there are just some plateaus guys hit," Scioscia said. "You can't push them through things. You can't force things. He just needs work."
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Scioscia said Morales, who in 2009 hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in but missed most of 2010, needs to begin playing in exhibition games by this weekend in order to get enough at-bats to be ready by the March 31 season opener in Kansas City.
First baseman Mark Trumbo, who leads the Angels with five spring home runs, left Wednesday's game in the third inning because of right groin tightness.
Trumbo, who felt some pulling in the groin as he ran to first on a double-play grounder in the second inning, said the injury was "nothing serious."