2/18/2013 4:30 P.M. ET
Angels look to utilize extra Spring Training time
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels have a lot of time to get ready for the upcoming regular season.
Too much time, perhaps.
Due to the World Baseball Classic, Spring Training started more than a week earlier throughout baseball this year. In 2012, Angels pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 19, with the first full workout following on Feb. 27 and the first Cactus League game March 5. This year, pitchers and catchers got their physicals Feb. 11, the first full-squad workout was Feb. 15 and the first Spring Training contest is slated for the 23rd.
Opening Day is five days earlier -- April 1 instead of April 6 -- but the new schedule still leaves the Angels with about an extra week to prepare. So don't expect to see many of the regulars, or starting pitchers, appearing in that first week. The Angels won't be playing in any intra-squad games before then, either. There's just no need.
"I know it sounds weird when you say it's only six days or seven days -- that's a big difference for a position player because they normally don't even need all the normal spring," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Now they have six or seven more days. So, there's a timing element of when we can take advantage of them working a little bit more to prep themselves for games a little bit."
One guy who will get in games early in the spring is shortstop Erick Aybar, who will suit up for the Dominican Republic as the only Angels representative taking part in the Classic.
At some point in early March, Aybar will fly to Puerto Rico, site of pool play beginning March 7. Depending on how well his home country fares, Aybar could be away from the team until as late as March 19, when the championship game takes place at AT&T Park in San Francisco. And with Jose Reyes the starting shortstop, he may not get much time on the field.
"I think as long as he's getting his work in," Scioscia said. "It's Spring Training; these guys aren't going to start out playing every day anyway. If he's going to play enough to start to see some velocity, enough to start to get his prep step, get some of this spring stiffness out, that's fine."
Madson throws off flat ground after setback
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Potential Angels closer Ryan Madson threw off flat ground for six minutes on Monday morning, picking up a baseball for the first time since being shut down 18 days earlier.
Madson was progressing well from Tommy John surgery, getting in four bullpen sessions prior to the start of camp. But inflammation and soreness from his Feb. 1 session got him off the mound, led to an MRI that came back clean, put him on a strengthening program for about a week and basically forced him to start from scratch.
There's still no telling when he'll get back on the mound.
"He's going to start from the beginning of his throwing program, just activating the arm," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "How long it takes, I don't know, but he won't be throwing a bullpen for a while, until he can get out there and stretch his arm out a little bit. How long that takes, I don't know. But it's not a situation where he's going to throw today and throw a bullpen in a couple days."
Opening Day is essentially out of the question for the 32-year-old right-hander, who missed all of the 2012 season with the Reds after undergoing the ligament-replacement surgery last April. If Madson can start getting into some Spring Training games by the middle of March, though, that could set him up to join the Angels' bullpen at some point in April.
It initially took Madson three months to go from tossing off flat ground to throwing a bullpen session, from September to November. It won't take that long this time. Madson believes he can play catch daily and get back on the mound by the third week, then progress toward eventually pitching in games thereafter.
"But that's just a total guess," he added.
Asked if he can still get into Spring Training games by the middle of March, which was initially the plan, Madson said: "I don't know. I really don't know the pace -- I don't know that they have it lined up. I think it's just play it by ear."
MRI on Burnett's back reveals no damage
TEMPE, Ariz. -- An MRI on Sean Burnett's lower back didn't show any structural damage, revealing only the stiffness the Angels anticipated when he left camp early Monday.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said that stiffness didn't result from any specific bullpen session, just through general soreness. While with the Nationals, the lefty reliever missed a little more than a week with lower-back stiffness in the middle of March, then four games in early April.
The Angels said the tests were done as a precautionary measure and also to get a better read on Burnett's history with the condition.
"We're not anticipating anything dramatic, but we want to be sure," Dipoto said before results were revealed. "Just get a baseline image to know what we're working from with Sean. He came in and he had some back tightness. We'd rather be safe than sorry."
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.