MLB Team Report - Los Angeles Angels - INSIDE PITCH

SEATTLE -- Los Angeles Angels right-handed starter Matt Shoemaker could be back sooner than originally expected, and if all goes well, the Angels might get their No. 3 starter back in time for Game 2 or Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

Shoemaker threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday and said he felt fine.

The Angels are scheduled to start right-hander Jered Weaver in Thursday's Game 1 of the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals. Shoemaker and left-hander C.J. Wilson, in some order, are likely to be the next two starters.

Shoemaker carries a seven-start winning streak into the postseason, but he hasn't pitched since straining his rib cage in a Sept. 15 win over Seattle. Since the beginning of August, Shoemaker has gone 8-1 with a 1.66 ERA.

Had he been unavailable, the Angels might have been forced to depend on right-hander Cory Rasmus. The converted reliever has been solid as a starter since moving into the rotation at the end of August, although his Sunday start in a 4-1 loss to Seattle fell short of impressive. He allowed three earned runs on three hits in three innings in that game.

Of the Angels' three starters in the Seattle series, only Wilson was impressive.

The rotation isn't exactly rolling into the postseason, and the three-game sweep at the hands of the Mariners could be viewed as a change in momentum for the Angels. However, it is more than likely just a blip on the radar, kind of like the four-game series sweep in Seattle ahead of the Angels' 2002 road to a World Series title.


MLB Team Report - Los Angeles Angels - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 98-64, first place in American League West

NEXT: American League Division Series, Game 1, Thursday -- Royals (TBA) at Angels (RHP Jered Weaver, 18-9, 3.59 ERA)


--LF Josh Hamilton will be back in action when the Angels open the playoffs after missing the last two weeks of the season due to a sore rib cage. He took batting practice Tuesday. Manager Mike Scioscia said he would pencil Hamilton lower in the lineup than normal to take pressure off the veteran.

--RHP Matt Shoemaker, who sustained a mild oblique strain Sept. 15 and missed the rest of the regular season, threw a bullpen session Tuesday. He declared himself ready to go in the AL Division Series, and he is likely to start Game 2 or Game 3.

--LHP Joe Thatcher had a forgettable performance during his short stint Sunday. He faced just three batters after coming on for starter Cory Rasmus in the fourth inning and allowed two of them to get hits. Thatcher's 1/3-inning performance included two hits and two runs allowed to put his season ERA at 8.10.

--CF Mike Trout had another short outing Sunday, going 0-for-2 in the loss to Seattle, but he still managed to finish as the American League's leader in runs (115), RBIs (111) and extra-base hits (84). The last player to lead the AL in all three categories in a season was Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997.

--RHP Cory Rasmus got one final chance to prove himself as a starter before the postseason on Sunday, when he allowed two earned runs off three hits in three innings. Rasmus wasn't as effective as he had been in previous starts, but he showed enough that the Angels might use him if RHP Matt Shoemaker isn't healthy enough to pitch.

--RHP Jered Weaver appears to be the Angels' target to start Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday. He went 18-9 with a 3.59 ERA during the regular season but struggled in his final start Friday night in Seattle. Weaver went 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA in four starts against Oakland this season; he did not face the Royals.