03/16/11 3:25 PM ET
Broken toe will sideline Downs for Opening Day
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he did not expect to have Downs available for Opening Day on March 31. No surgery will be required during the recovery process, and Downs was given clearance by the club's medical staff to play catch until the toe heals.
A winter free-agent acquisition who excelled in setup relief for the Blue Jays, Downs said he stubbed his toe while "playing around with his kids" on Sunday night. He did not realize it was anything out of the ordinary until Monday morning when it had become swollen and discolored.
Downs was sent to Southern California on Monday and was examined at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic by Dr. Phillip Kwong, who discovered the break in the bone. Downs will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
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"Just doing normal kids' stuff," Downs said of the accident. "I've stubbed my toe a lot of times. It's just one of those things that happen when you're playing around. When I first did it, that's what I thought. Everybody has one of these freak accidents.
"When I got up the next morning, it was swollen and purple. I realized I'd done something more than stub it."
Downs, who turns 35 on Thursday, has two children, Katherine and Harrison. They are 8 and 5.
Downs injured the same toe on the field two years ago getting out of the batter's box in a rare hitting appearance for the Jays in an Interleague game in Philadelphia.
"They called it turf toe," he said. "I was running out of the box, and the way I turned and planted ... just a freak thing. No explanation.
"I was able to pitch a little bit and had a setback."
The incident happened in June and resulted in two trips to the disabled list: June 17-July 8 and Aug. 7-22 after he aggravated it. He was limited to 48 appearances that season -- his fewest since 2005, when 13 of his 26 appearances were as a starter.
Downs doesn't see this injury costing him as much time as the sprained toe in 2009.
"In the big picture, I don't see it being a problem," said Downs, who agreed to a three-year, $15 million deal with the Angels on Dec. 10. "It's one of the smaller bones by the tip of the toe. It's actually gotten better already than when I first did it.
"They're going to let me play catch -- not throw off the mound. And I can do the bike. This is kind of a minor setback."
The indefinite loss of Downs underscores the importance of signing Hisanori Takahashi, a second left-handed bullpen option, eight days before Downs.
Takahashi can assume a wide variety of roles, from long reliever to setup to closer in addition to offering protection as a starter.
"Obviously, it's disappointing," Scioscia said. "But these things happen. Hopefully, it won't set Scott too far back with the season approaching. His availability on Opening Day, it just doesn't look like it's going to happen."
There is no timetable for Downs' return.
"Dr. Kwong confirmed that it's a fracture and also confirmed there is no need to do any repairs to it," Scioscia said. "Just let it heal. They'll see if he can pitch through it, like a jammed finger. Opening Day is obviously impacted, but we're optimistic he'll get back out there."
The foot will be closely monitored by pitching coach Mike Butcher and the medical staff when Downs begins to throw in earnest.
"We've had bullpens with no lefties at times," Scioscia said when asked about going into the season with only one southpaw reliever. "With Takahashi, this is an area where we have depth.
"We need Scott in the bullpen, for sure. Takahashi brings the versatility to pitch anywhere from the sixth to the ninth. We might adjust his role a bit. He might be a little deeper [in games]. If the matchups are right, he can pitch in a variety of innings, including the eighth. We're not averse to pitching him in the ninth inning."
Takahashi was 8-for-8 in save opportunities for the Mets last season, going 10-6 with a 3.61 ERA in 122 innings. Twelve of his 53 appearances were as a starter.
Downs and Takahashi, who agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal, both have had excellent springs.
Downs has yielded no runs and only two baserunners in four innings. Takahashi has gone seven innings and allowed five baserunners and no runs. Both are 1-0.
The Angels are well-protected in the bullpen with a group of right-handers vying for roster spots.
"It's one of the more highly competitive areas of our club," Scioscia said. "Coming out of the chute, it's going to give somebody an opportunity that he might not have had if Scott was healthy."
Downs was 5-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 67 appearances last season for Toronto, his sixth season with the Blue Jays and 10th in the Major Leagues.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.