ANAHEIM -- The Angels have learned to handle Maicer Izturis with care. They're being cautious again with their gifted but sometimes fragile infielder.
Izturis experienced soreness in his left hamstring before Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox and was a late scratch. He would be available to pinch-hit against the Athletics after taking batting practice on Tuesday, but he's not expected to be back in the lineup, leading off, until the Angels hit the road for a seven-game trip opening Friday night against the Rays in Florida.
"We expect him to play Friday," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Izturis, who has been the team's most consistent offensive presence. "He can pinch-hit tonight."
Through Monday, Izturis was tied for ninth in the American League in batting at .338 and had a .384 on-base percentage. He was tied for fifth in the AL with 27 hits and had two home runs, nine RBIs and seven doubles.
Equally adept at third base, shortstop and second, Izturis missed 61 games in 2010 (strained left forearm and right shoulder inflammation) and has visited the DL nine times in his career.
Pineiro targeting Saturday return to rotation
ANAHEIM -- Joel Pineiro met all of his objectives in his Minor League rehab assignment pitching for advanced Class A Inland Empire at High Desert on Monday night.
The Angels' right-hander hopes manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher agree with his self-assessment that he's ready to rejoin the rotation on Saturday at Tampa Bay.
"I felt great," Pineiro said, having thrown 71 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, yielding three unearned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out six. "It was a normal start for me, and I'm on my normal routine now. I'll throw a bullpen [session on Wednesday], 45 to 50 pitches. I'm ready. I feel normal; nothing's changed."
Pineiro said he had good movement on his two-seam fastball, which was in the normal 87-89 mph range, and also felt comfortable with his slider and off-speed stuff. His own throwing error led to the three unearned runs.
Pineiro felt tightness in his back in the area of the right shoulder blade pitching in a Minor League game in Mesa, Ariz., on March 20. He came back a few days later but aggravated the area and was shut down, starting the season on the 15-day disabled list.
"Joel's good -- smiling, happy," Scioscia said. "His arm feels great, no residual stiffness. His last 10 pitches, he maintained his velocity and had more in his tank. That's a good sign. He could pitch Saturday. He'll be evaluated after his bullpen."
If Pineiro takes a start on Saturday, it would push back Jered Weaver a day, taking him out of the four-game series against the Red Sox in Boston next week. The Angels' co-ace with Dan Haren, Weaver missed the Sox at Angel Stadium during their four-game sweep.
"We don't think about that," Scioscia said. "We do what's best for our guys. An extra day would help them."
Matt Palmer and Tyler Chatwood have been filling in the two rotation spots vacated by Pineiro and Scott Kazmir, who is throwing in camp games in Arizona in his recovery from soreness in his back. Kazmir's return is not close, Scioscia indicated.
"His velocity is up, but his command is still an issue," Scioscia said. "He's going to throw in Arizona, and then we'll evaluate him. Hopefully, he's sound. He has to work on some stuff."
Debuting Amarista ready to go
ANAHEIM -- Alexi Amarista, a 22-year-old Venezuelan who has shot through the Angels' system, was given a start against the Athletics on Tuesday night, his Major League debut coming against right-hander Brandon McCarthy.
"I'm happy to be here," said Amarista, who began the 2010 season at advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga and finished at Triple-A Salt Lake. "Very excited."
A switch-hitter along the lines of fellow Venezuelan Maicer Izturis, Amarista also can play the outfield and could emerge as the new Chone Figgins in the Angels' scheme.
Amarista appears shorter than his listed 5-foot-8, perhaps by as much as two inches. But he has shown the Angels what he can do in Cactus League play.
"I like him," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "He's tough. That kid can play. He really gets after it. He's not afraid."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia feels Amarista has benefited from offseasons spent in the Venezuelan Winter League, facing top-notch Major League-level pitching.
"Alexi is smaller in stature, but he's always played big," Scioscia said. "He's a plus runner. He has progressed and moved up. ... He's going to put the ball in play and hopefully give us a boost.
"He's got good range, turns double plays well. He's a good defender. We need a little more offense and are trying to get more creative."
With Howard Kendrick moving over from second to first, replacing Mark Trumbo, the Angels took the wraps off one of the shortest infields in memory.
"I'm the tallest one," said 5-foot-10 shortstop Erick Aybar, who actually shares the distinction with Kendrick, also 5-10. Third baseman Alberto Callaspo is 5-9 and Amarista somewhere between 5-6 and 5-8.
"They don't bark -- they bite," Hunter said. "They may be small, but those guys will go after you."
Weaver's start among best in recent memory
ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver, never one to get too excited about his own work, was back on his computer on Tuesday after his latest brilliant effort, a shutout of the Athletics on Monday night, shaving his ERA to 0.99 while winning all six of his starts. It is the lowest ERA ever by an Angels pitcher after six starts.
"Catching up on a few things," the Angels' co-ace said, grinning. "Last night was fun. But it's another day."
Weaver has the stat mavens working overtime. He is the 13th pitcher over the past 10 years to open the season 6-0 in six outings. Among those 13, his ERA is the fourth lowest and his 49 strikeouts are the fourth most. Only Zack Greinke (0.40) and Cliff Lee (0.81) in 2008 and Ubaldo Jimenez (0.87) in 2010 had lower ERAs. Only Randy Johnson (61 in 2002), Greinke (54) and Mike Mussina (51 in 2003) had more strikeouts during their 6-0 starts.
Weaver is the 15th pitcher in the past 50 years to win at least six starts through his team's first 23 games, and the first since Johnson in 2002. Fernando Valenzuela, a batterymate of Angels manager Mike Scioscia at the time, did it in 1981 for the eventual World Series champion Dodgers. Dave Stewart, another of Scioscia's former pitchers with the Dodgers, did it for the Athletics in 1988 and 1990.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.