Scott Downs threw 19 pitches in a simulated-game inning on Thursday, and the veteran left-hander expects to be activated for Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, a potentially huge boost for a bullpen that has struggled to the tune of a 6.35 earned run average in 32 games since the All-Star break.
Downs had a 1-1 record and 2.57 ERA in 38 games when he suffered a shoulder strain in late July. With hard-throwing right-hander Jordan Walden also on the disabled list because of a nerve problem in his neck, the bullpen has essentially been reduced to two reliable relievers, Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen.
Walden is scheduled to make his third rehabilitation appearance for triple-A Salt Lake Thursday night, and he could also be activated this weekend.
"Some guys in the bullpen are throwing very well," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "but the depth we're trying to establish is squarely on the shoulders of Downs and Walden."