ANAHEIM -- Angels reliever Ryan Madson has once again started a throwing program, but the right-hander has been down this road before during a lengthy comeback trail from last year's Tommy John surgery.
Madson played catch in the outfield at Angel Stadium on Friday afternoon for the second straight day. He said he felt better following the session than he did on Thursday, the first time Madson had thrown since experiencing inflammation in his right elbow following a Minor League rehab appearance on May 13.
"I'm happy, I'm having a great day," Madson said before Friday's opener against the Astros. "It was as good as it could be."
Madson said he hasn't felt any inflammation in his right arm since he resumed his throwing program. But he's also learned from previous comeback attempts that ended in disappointment.
"I'm just getting back into it slowly," said Madson, who has not appeared in a Major League game since 2011. "I'm not going to push it. I thought I had it whupped a couple of times. It's hard. It's a challenge."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia is pleased with Madson's progress, though there remains no timetable for him to make another rehab appearance.
"It's very encouraging," Scioscia said. "He's feeling better today. Any day that he comes out and feels better is a step in the right direction. Hopefully we'll see him progress again this next week."
As Madson put it, "The saga continues."
Angels sticking with six-man rotation for time being
ANAHEIM -- The Angels will stick with a six-man rotation through at least the end of an eight-game homestand that ends on Wednesday, manager Mike Scioscia said on Friday.
The Angels added two arms to their rotation this week, leaving them with six capable starters. Jered Weaver was activated from the disabled list on Wednesday and Tommy Hanson returned from the restricted list and started Friday against the Astros. Jerome Williams, C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas comprise the rest of the Angels' rotation.
So what are the benefits of utilizing six starters?
"I think any time you can give a starter an extra day, hopefully they will catch their breath a little bit," Scioscia said. "I think it helps the whole group if you can do it periodically. It's like throwing an off-day in there. I think right now is a good time for it. It's a good time to let these guys get out there and pitch and give them an extra day."
While starting pitching was an issue for the Angels in April -- when the rotation had a combined 5.26 ERA -- things have improved in May. Entering Friday's opener against the Astros, Angels starters had a cumulative 3.78 ERA this month.
Vargas became the first Angels pitcher to go 5-0 in May, while Williams is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in five starts since joining the rotation this month.
Wilson had a pair of double-digit strikeout performances and lowered his ERA to 3.95 from 4.30 at the end of April. Blanton pitched into the seventh inning in four of his six outings this month after not recording an out past the sixth in any of his five April starts.
Weaver, meanwhile, fired six innings of one-run ball to beat the Dodgers on Wednesday, his first outing since he broke his left elbow on April 7.
"Getting Weaver back this week and now having Tommy back and having some guys in our rotation starting to throw the ball to their capabilities is huge for us," Scioscia said.
Hamilton returns to lineup; Pujols gets rest
ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton returned to the Angels' lineup for Friday's series opener against the Astros, but first baseman Albert Pujols and third baseman Alberto Callaspo did not join him.
Hamilton has been dealing with back spasms this week and was held out of the lineup on Tuesday and Thursday. He was the designated hitter on Friday.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was confident Hamilton's back issues won't require a trip to the disabled list.
"No, I don't think it's that type of thing," Scioscia said. "It's something that he's had before, and he's nursed his way through it and hopefully he'll be able to do the same thing with this."
Scioscia said he hoped a day off could help Pujols recover somewhat from nagging foot and knee issues. Pujols is hitting .246 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 53 games. Friday was only the second time he was not in the lineup this season.
"He's been banged up, we just wanted to give him a little recharge today," Scioscia said. "It's just time to try to get him a notch up on this health thing and get him comfortable again."
The manager said it was also just a day off for Callaspo, something he would like to do for second baseman Howie Kendrick soon. Kendrick has started every game for the Angels this year. But Scioscia said it's been difficult to rest his starters due to a lack of depth on the bench.
"The offensive depth of our team and our bench depth is not where we want it right now because of so many pitchers that we're carrying," Scioscia said.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.