MINNEAPOLIS -- Joel Pineiro has been smiling the past few days. His recovery from a strained left oblique, expected to keep him out for 6-8 weeks, has been swifter than anticipated. He was injured warming up before a July 28 start at home against Boston.

"It's been only three weeks," Pineiro said, "and I'm already throwing -- and feeling good. That's a great sign." He nodded and grinned when it was suggested that his intense commitment to conditioning is paying off in his quick return.

"Pineiro had a flat-ground session, and actually he's very encouraged," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said on Saturday. "He got out to 125 feet and came in on flat ground and spun some curveballs. I think we're all very encouraged where we are now. If his progress is steady, we're optimistic."

Scioscia, however, wouldn't commit to any timetables for Pineiro's return this season -- something that seemed doubtful on July 28.

Pineiro has been a rock of stability in his first season with the Angels, delivering 131 1/3 innings in 20 starts, going 10-7 with a 4.18 ERA.

Scioscia defends Haren after rough outing

MINNEAPOLIS -- Dan Haren, in the wake of another frustrating loss on Friday night, said he was "embarrassed" by his performance with the Angels. His manager felt Haren, an All-Star with few peers acquired from Arizona on July 25 for Joe Saunders and three other pitchers, was being too harsh in his self-judgment.

"I think he's being a little hard on himself," Scioscia said. "He's a little frustrated. We know what his impact is going to mean to our team. He's a competitor and is accountable to his performance. He has pitched well. We haven't supported him in some areas. This guy's good, and he's going to really help us."

Haren is 1-4 with a 4.39 ERA in six starts for the Angels after going 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA for the D-backs. His offense has produced a total of 14 runs (2.3 per game) in his support, and the defense has been less than airtight. He remained at his locker, alone with his thoughts, after saying, "I feel bad for the guys. I'm supposed to be better than this. I am better than this."

Haren second-guessed himself for throwing a curveball to Jason Kubel resulting in a three-run homer giving the Twins a 4-0 lead in the third inning, mentioning that they'd talked about not throwing breaking balls to the Twins' cleanup man during a pregame session.

"That wasn't exactly accurate," Scioscia said. "You have to throw curveballs to every hitter."

Asked if this meant it was simply the wrong count, at 2-1, for that pitch, the manager declined to expand. "I'm not going to get into our strategy."

Scioscia added that Haren is still getting familiar with his catchers, Jeff Mathis, Mike Napoli and Bobby Wilson.

"The important thing is that a pitcher commits to a certain pitch," Scioscia said. "Talking to Dan, he was a little unsure. It goes back to a pitcher committing to a pitch and turning it loose. Our guys are usually good at it."

Bourjos gets encouragement from skipper

MINNEAPOLIS -- After coming together in deep left center with left fielder Juan Rivera on Friday night, allowing Jim Thome's fly ball to fall free for a triple, Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos second-guessed himself for encroaching on Rivera's turf and distracting him.

"Either I call it early or get out of the way," Bourjos, one of the fastest players in the Majors, said. "I'll take the blame for that ball falling. I want everything. I want to catch everything, and maybe sometimes that's not a good thing."

Manager Mike Scioscia made it clear that he doesn't want Bourjos holding back, that the outfield is his to roam at will and go get anything he can reach.

"He does not need to tone that down," Scioscia said. "With Peter, like with Torii [Hunter], if it's a routine catch, it's his. With a corner outfielder, it's different. As far as Juan had to go, Peter had time to get there, it was his to go get."

Bourjos, showing signs of coming alive offensively with hits in his past two games, was back in center on Saturday with Bobby Abreu in left.

Worth noting

Maicer Izturis was unable to play on Saturday as he'd hoped. There is still some soreness, he said, in his lower right shoulder from a diving attempt defensively in Boston. ... Bobby Abreu, who belted a second-inning home run Saturday, joins Alex Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero as the only active players with at least 15 homers in the past 13 seasons. ... Angels manager Mike Scioscia appreciated the way his players -- notably Dan Haren and Peter Bourjos -- took full accountability for mistakes during Friday night's loss to the Twins. "The last thing a team wants when it's struggling is finger-pointing," Scioscia said. I think it's important in this game when something's going to go wrong in every game. You're not going to get it done as clean as you want all the time, and it's good to take accountability like that. `I didn't get it done, I didn't make a play.'" . . . The Twins, with wins in four of the first five, have clinched their first season series against the Angels since 2002 when they went 5-4 with Torii Hunter as their center fielder. ... Alberto Callaspo has hit safely in 20 of 24 games since arriving from Kansas City, batting .314. He has been playing with a sore left hand from his time with the Royals. ... With 23 saves, Brian Fuentes is on pace to become the first Angels closer in history with back-to-back 30-save performances in his first two seasons with the club. Through Friday's games, Fuentes' 71 saves the past two seasons lead the Majors, with Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon next at 68 apiece.