TEMPE, Ariz. — Four batters into an expected two-inning stint, Angels reliever Dane De La Rosa gave up a walk, a hit batsman, a single and a grand slam to Dodgers left fielder Scott Van Slyke. And that wasn't even the worst part of his afternoon in Tempe Diablo Stadium.
The 6-foot-7, 245-pound right-hander was pulled from Thursday's 4-4, 10-inning exhibition tie because of forearm tightness and was sent for an MRI exam. If the injury is serious, it would be a considerable blow to the Angels bullpen.
"It depends where it is and what it is," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll have to wait for our medical department to give us some guidance."
De La Rosa, 31, spent most of 2003 to 2012 playing minor league and independent-league ball. But he had a breakout 2013 season after the Angels acquired him from Tampa Bay for reliever Steve Geltz last March.
De La Rosa went 6-1 with a 2.86 earned-run average and a team-high 20 holds in 75 games, and by August, he had become the primary setup man for closer Ernesto Frieri. His 75 appearances ranked fifth in the American League and third-most in Angels history.
De La Rosa walked three and struck out three in his first spring game Sunday, and he was even shakier Thursday. He did retire two of the three batters after Van Slyke's grand slam, but Scioscia could see something was wrong.
"The ball was not coming out of his hand as hot or as easily as it does for him," Scioscia said. "It looked like he was a little stiff in his delivery. His command was obviously off. He was fighting himself. It was time to get him out."
If De La Rosa has to open the season on the disabled list, it could open a roster spot for veteran right-hander Brandon Lyon and clear a path for right-handers Fernando Salas and Michael Kohn to make the team.
Sean Burnett's return from elbow surgery is on track, the left-hander progressing from long-toss to throwing off the slope of a mound this week. He expects to throw a bullpen session in the next four or five days, though Scioscia's timetable is for Burnett to throw off a mound "within a week to 10 days."
Either way, Burnett may not be ready for opening day.
"No doubt, it's cutting it close, but he'll be ready on his own time," Scioscia said. "You can't look at the schedule and say you he has to be ready by a certain date."
Burnett rarely throws more than one inning, so he would only need a handful of spring-training appearances to be game-ready. But it may take longer to gain the stamina to pitch two or three days in a row.
Most Angels regulars, outside of Mike Trout and Howie Kendrick, are still searching for their swings, but the starting pitching has been solid. After C.J. Wilson's four hitless innings Thursday, the rotation has combined for a 2.53 ERA with 18 strikeouts and nine walks in 21 1/3 innings over seven games.
"You want to throw as many pitches as you can, but you also want good results so your manager isn't freaking out and you guys aren't writing stupid stories about how we're doing and stuff," Wilson said.
"The starters have been throwing pretty well. We need to start out really hot at the beginning of the season. If we throw well here, it will give us a lot more ability to win games in April."
Josh Hamilton, sidelined since last week because of a left calf strain, has begun jogging on an anti-gravity treadmill and taking live batting practice. He said he normally needs 45 to 55 spring at-bats to be game-ready, a figure he could reach in 12 to 15 games.
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