ANAHEIM -- After starting out the season with a 2-6 record, the Angels turned it around by winning four of their next five, including three in a row entering Monday's game against the Tigers.And they've done it with their starting pitching, as Joel Pineiro, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana combined to allow just four runs over 31 innings for a 1.16 ERA in those four wins against the Yankees and Blue Jays. "It's really encouraging," Scioscia said. "It's critical for us to get those quality starts every night. They faced some tough offenses, and our guys gave us great chances to win in Toronto and in New York. We really needed that." The only Angels starter who doesn't have a win this season is left-hander Scott Kazmir, who allowed six runs over four innings in his first start of the season against the Yankees on Thursday. But Scioscia is confident Kazmir, who struggled with his slider in his start, will get back on track when he starts on Tuesday against Detroit. "He pitched last year really with more of a fastball/changeup look and a good slider, and he still has that good slider, but it's about fastball command," Scioscia said. "So he's got three terrific pitches, and that fastball gives you a different look. On any day, he can still get by when he has that fastball command, which he didn't have in New York."
Hot-hitting Mathis augmenting defensive rep
ANAHEIM -- Angels catcher Jeff Mathis has always been noted for his defense behind the plate and his ability to call games for the Angels pitching staff.But Mathis has complemented that with an impressive start to the season at the plate, sporting a .323 batting average after hitting safely in all nine of his starts. Mathis has been rewarded for his stellar defensive work, combined with his newly found offense, with playing time and was in the starting lineup again on Monday for the 10th time in 13 games with fellow catcher Mike Napoli on the bench. "It's nice," Mathis said of seeing his name in the lineup. "Everyone wants to be in the lineup, and that's a given, but it helps with getting you in a rhythm by seeing pitches and getting at-bats on a regular basis." Mathis' hot start is also a carryover from the 2009 postseason, when he batted .553 (8-for-15) in seven games against the Red Sox and Yankees. It was a far cry from the regular season, when Mathis batted just .211 with five homers in 84 games, while Napoli batted .272 with 20 homers in 114. Angels manager Mike Scioscia feels that the 27-year-old Mathis, who was a career .274 hitter in the Minors, is just starting to reach his offensive potential. "Jeff has been has been a guy who has shown flashes of his potential on the offensive side but hasn't carried it on a consistent basis," Scioscia said. "I think you're seeing a guy who is confident and was hitting some of the best pitching in the world on the big stage in the playoffs. He's carried that into this year, and if he has a bad swing, he's not trying to reinvent the wheel, and hopefully that'll create consistently."
Fuentes on track to return on Wednesday
ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before Monday's game that closer Brian Fuentes is expected to rejoin the team on Wednesday when he becomes eligible to return from the disabled list.Fuentes made a one-inning rehab appearance at Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Monday -- throwing a scoreless first inning with a strikeout against Lake Elsinore -- and if he comes out feeling fine, he should be ready to return for Wednesday's game against the Tigers. "We'll see how he looks tonight and how he feels tomorrow," Scioscia said. "We can repeat it if we have to, but our feeling is that if it goes well he should be available on Wednesday." Fuentes, who led the Majors with 48 saves last season, has made just one appearance this year, throwing a perfect inning for a save on Opening Day, but he felt stiffness in his back the next day while handling a dumbbell in the weight room and was placed on the DL retroactive to April 6. Scioscia also said that Fuentes will remain as the club's closer when he returns despite the fact that Fernando Rodney has three saves in three chances.
Rodney gets first crack at former club
ANAHEIM -- After spending seven seasons with Detroit, Fernando Rodney will possibly pitch against his former team for the first time in his career this week with the Angels hosting the Tigers for a four-game series at Angel Stadium.Rodney, who had a 4.28 ERA and 70 career saves in 314 appearances with Detroit, has been serving as closer with Brian Fuentes on the disabled list until Wednesday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia has certainly been impressed by Rodney, who has put together a string of four consecutive scoreless innings that have led to a win and three straight saves. "He's been terrific," Scioscia said. "In Spring Training, he was slowed a little bit by shin splints, but once he got into his game, we saw it like we did firsthand when he was in the opposing dugout. So it's good to have him."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.