After some rest, Saunders is sure he’ll regain form

Say it ain’t Joe. That’s the self-assessment of a certain Angels left-hander who just wasn’t himself through much of May, June and July and was put on the disabled list because of shoulder tightness on Aug. 7.

But after receiving a cortisone injection last Saturday, resting for five days and resuming his throwing this week, Joe Saunders is confident he will regain the form that made him an All-Star in 2008.

“This is the best I’ve felt all year,” Saunders said Friday. “In spring training, they knew it was tight, but I tried to work it out as best I could. Looking back, I should have taken some time off and gotten the shot in spring training.”

Saunders was 5-1 with a 2.66 earned run average on May 9, but the “knot” behind his shoulder worsened through the summer.


With the rotation besieged by injury -- the Angels have used 13 starters, including five rookies, this season -- Saunders struggled through the discomfort, falling to 9-7 with a 5.33 ERA.

“The knot prevented me from extending and following through,” he said. “My family and friends saw it. I kept saying I was OK, but I was hurting the team more than helping it.”

Saunders played catch Wednesday and long-tossed at 120 feet Friday. He will throw a bullpen session early next week and then a simulated game before returning to the rotation.

“There’s no tightness; everything looks great,” Saunders said. “I’m excited to throw without pain. Hopefully, you’ll see the old Joe.”

Follow the bouncing ball

Vladimir Guerrero’s reputation as one of baseball’s best bad-ball hitters -- and his potential for a post-baseball career in cricket -- got a huge boost Friday night.

In the first inning, the Angels slugger hit a Chris Tillman breaking ball that bounced several feet in front of home plate for a bloop single to left-center field.

At first, it appeared Guerrero dug out the low pitch and pounded it into the plate so hard it carried over shortstop Cesar Izturis’ head.

But replays clearly showed that the ball bounced in front of the plate before being struck, which explains why Guerrero was cracking up as he rounded first base.

Hunter back on track

Torii Hunter, after missing Thursday night’s game with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga because of flu symptoms, was able to resume his rehabilitation assignment Friday night.

Barring any setbacks, Manager Mike Scioscia said, Hunter will fly to Baltimore today and be activated for Sunday’s game.

Scioscia will probably move Bobby Abreu from third to second in the order and bat Hunter third, the spot he occupied when he went on the DL because of a right adductor strain on July 10.

“We’ll probably ease him back into the lineup, playing every other day for a while,” Scioscia said. “Then, he’ll play every day.”

Show me the money

The Angels selected pitcher Brian Matusz out of high school in the fourth round of a 2005 draft in which they also chose current rotation members Trevor Bell and Sean O’Sullivan.

Matusz turned down the Angels to attend the University of San Diego and was the Orioles’ first-round pick -- and fourth overall selection -- in the 2008 draft.

Tonight, Matusz, a 22-year-old left-hander who was called up on Aug. 4, will start against the Angels at Camden Yards.

“He asked for more than $1 million,” Angels scouting director Eddie Bane said of Matusz. “I should have said yes.”