ANAHEIM -- The Angels will have a lot of interesting decisions to make in the next few days, but it appears that Raul Ibanez's standing on the roster will not be one of them.
General manager Jerry Dipoto wouldn't say that the veteran designated hitter will not be released, but he did indicate that the club will continue to be patient with Ibanez -- because he turned things around after a slow start last season, because they like his veteran presence, because he's come through in late-game situations and because keeping him on the roster allows the organization to preserve depth.
"One of the real benefits about where we're at right now is just the fact that we have unmasked some depth, and once you start peeling depth away, it's not there anymore," Dipoto said. "Raul has a track record. He has done this before. He has gone through cold spells, and he has gotten hot. There's nobody here who believes Raul has had his last good days in the big leagues."
The Angels' current dilemma, no doubt, is a good one.
Efren Navarro, Grant Green, C.J. Cron and Luis Jimenez have come up from Triple-A and contributed in the past few weeks, and now several key position players are on the verge of being activated from the disabled list.
Third baseman David Freese (non-displaced fracture in right middle finger) and right fielder Kole Calhoun (sprained right ankle) are deep into their rehab assignments with Triple-A Salt Lake and could be back within the next couple of days.
That would presumably lead to Jimenez (a right-handed-hitting third baseman) and Navarro (a left-handed hitter currently playing corner outfield) being optioned.
But next week, when left fielder Josh Hamilton (surgery on left thumb) and third baseman Ian Stewart (left hand contusion) are projected to return, is when things could get interesting.
The Angels would then conceivably have to make a decision between Green, a right-handed hitter who can play up to four positions, and Cron, the slugging prospect who can spell Albert Pujols by playing first base and can be a right-handed-hitting complement to Ibanez at DH.
Stewart, who has batted .176 and struck out 31 times in 24 games, can be optioned to Triple-A.
"We're finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in getting guys back," Dipoto said. "And the guys who have come up and chipped in have done such a great job that it makes it tough to have conversations. But my goodness, when you look at the way the roster has been stacked, it's been fun."
Ibanez, 41, has a .148/.268/.269 slash line in his first 36 games, but he posted only a .511 OPS in April last season and turned it around shortly thereafter, with a 1.031 OPS in May. The Angels believe he can do the same now.
"To be fair, you bring a guy in, you remain patient with him, you give him his opportunity," Dipoto said. "Raul wasn't brought in to jam into the four-hole and hit cleanup for a month. It hasn't been a great six weeks for him. We'll get him where he needs to be."
De La Rosa to restart rehab assignment
ANAHEIM -- Right-handed reliever Dane De La Rosa (irritation in right s/c joint) is slated to restart his rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, two days after throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session at Angel Stadium.
In addition, lefty Sean Burnett looks on track to be activated before the end of the week.
Burnett, limited to 13 games last season and completing the final steps of a lengthy rehabilitation from August elbow surgery, is "throwing the ball as well as he has in a couple of years," manager Mike Scioscia said on Monday.
Burnett gave up three runs in his debut with the Arkansas Travelers, and has since reeled off four consecutive scoreless outings. The 31-year-old struck out the side on Thursday, then notched back-to-back 1-2-3 innings on Saturday and Monday.
General manager Jerry Dipoto recently saw Burnett pitch and reported that he has great action on his curveball and sinker and is bouncing back well.
"I think Sean is at a stage now where his stuff is where you'd like to see it," Scioscia said. "You just want to make sure that it's there and it's going to stick."
Santiago mired in tough situation
ANAHEIM -- Matt Shoemaker has beaten Cliff Lee and David Price in his two starts since coming up from Triple-A, while Hector Santiago went seven days without a relief appearance before pitching two innings of mop-up duty on Monday.
"Difficult spot," manager Mike Scioscia said of Santiago's situation. "Difficult spot."
The Angels moved Santiago out of the rotation after the 26-year-old lefty went 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA in his first seven starts. Since then he has basically been a long reliever, one who hasn't had any chances, because the starters have consistently pitched deep into games.
Scioscia reiterated on Monday that "long range, there's no doubt that [Santiago] has the potential to start," but he made no indications as to when that would occur.
The Angels have an off-day on Thursday and could juggle the rotation thereafter. C.J. Wilson will start Friday's series opener against the Royals, but the rest is to be determined. They could skip Santiago's spot, which belongs to Shoemaker, but that would only buy them three days, because the following off-day isn't until June 2.
Asked if it would be best for Santiago to stay stretched out in Triple-A at this point, Scioscia said, "I think you're always evaluating what's best for a player, what's best for your roster, but we haven't come to any decisions yet on that.
"What Hector needs to focus on -- when he gets the ball, in whatever role -- is to make pitches and get guys out," he added. "It's not uncommon for a guy to struggle a little in the rotation, get off the treadmill for a while, and when he gets his opportunity, he's better prepared. Hopefully, that will be the case for Hector."
Angels, Salt Lake Bees extend association
ANAHEIM -- The Angels and Salt Lake Bees have signed a two-year player-development extension that will keep the Bees as the Angels' Triple-A affiliate through the 2016 season.
The Angels have been the Bees' parent club since 2001. In that stretch, the Bees have compiled a 971-941 record, won five division championships and made two trips to the Pacific Coast League finals, including last season. Salt Lake is celebrating the franchise's 20th anniversary this season and has attracted more than 10 million fans to its 15,411-seat home, Smith's Ballpark, during that time.
"We have enjoyed our longstanding relationship with Salt Lake and are thrilled to announce an extension through 2016," assistant general manager Scott Servais said in a statement on Monday. "The City of Salt Lake and employees of the franchise continue to provide a first-class venue and experience for baseball fans."
• More than 1,700 at-risk students (fourth through eighth grade) were invited to Monday's game as part of the Angels' sixth annual Orange County Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership. The students, making up the largest turnout in the event's history, watched early batting practice and received talks from Scioscia and Hamilton as a reward for improved behavior and staying out of gangs. Retired K-9 Bruno, who was shot on duty while protecting police and probation officers on March 20, made an appearance.
• Outfielder Collin Cowgill, batting .301/.398/.409 on the season, sat on Monday against an opposing left-hander because he's experiencing some tightness in his hip flexor.
"He'll be available if we need it," Scioscia said, "but we're just trying to keep him off his legs as much as we can."
• Grant Green got some work at first base with infield coach Alfredo Griffin prior to Monday's game. Green is most comfortable at second base but can also play shortstop, third base and left field. The Angels want him to get accustomed to first base in case of an emergency, but Griffin doesn't want to overload him with too much, because he's still getting acclimated to other positions.
• Calhoun went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs and Freese went 1-for-4 with a homer during a rehab game for Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday. Calhoun has played in four rehab games and Freese has played in three. Both could be activated from the disabled list by Wednesday.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.