Angels shortstop Erick Aybar dives for a grounder hit by the Rangers'… (Brandon Wade / Getty Images )
The Angels' training room is so crowded the team sent shortstop Erick Aybar and relievers Kevin Jepsen and Ryan Madson to its extended spring-training facility in Arizona on Wednesday to continue rehabbing the injuries that put them on the disabled list.
The Angels have seven players on the DL and several active players, including Albert Pujols, who require daily treatment for nagging injuries. That has taxed the medical staff so much that the team decided some players might benefit from more focused attention in minor league camp.
"They're going to move much further ahead being able to do it in a climate like Arizona, getting the one-on-one attention they really need," Manager Mike Scioscia said.
Aybar, out since April 10 because of a left heel contusion, is the closest to returning. He is expected to play in an extended spring-training game Thursday and if that goes well he could rejoin the Angels this weekend in Seattle.
Aybar said the heel still bothers him, especially when he makes a sudden stop. But he had a good workout before flying to Arizona on Wednesday evening and is optimistic he'll be back soon.
"The big thing now is to make sure that where he is is stable and he doesn't regress," Scioscia said. "Hopefully, it won't take him more than a couple of days if everything goes well."
Madson, who last pitched in October 2011, is trying to come back from Tommy John surgery. He threw a simulated game six days ago but it didn't go well and Scioscia said there is no timetable for him to try again.
"We're definitely just playing it as it comes along," he said.
Jepsen, bothered by a strained muscle just below his right armpit, hasn't picked up a ball in nearly two weeks and likely won't throw until the middle of next week at the earliest.
Another injured Angel, third baseman Alberto Callaspo, is expected to accompany the team on the trip and if his right calf strain continues to improve he could be activated when the team returns next week.
But that's not necessarily bad news for his replacement Luis Jimenez, who began Wednesday hitting .343 and playing exceptional defense. Scioscia said he's looking at some roster options that would allow the Angels to keep Jimenez in the big leagues even when everyone's healthy.
"We've got a lot of variables that are going to happen here within the next three days," he said. "There's no doubt Lucho's given us a big lift. When a guy's playing at his level, he can make a footprint on your team."
Jimenez, 24, spent seven years in the Angels' minor league system before making his big league debut April 12. He was 0 for 3 in that game but hit safely in eight of the next nine games, six of which the Angels won.
As for whether that has earned him a permanent spot on the roster, Jimenez wouldn't say.
"I don't have control over that," he said. "I just have to keep playing my baseball. Let them make the decision."