Joe Saunders says Angels are ‘almost like any other team now’

Pitcher Joe Saunders was in tears on the afternoon of July 25, 2010, when he was informed by the Angels that he’d been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks with others for pitcher Dan Haren.

“It was shocking; I remember being so emotional,” Saunders said Friday upon returning to Angel Stadium with his Arizona teammates to start a three-game interleague series. “It was the fear of the unknown, the big change at that point in my life. I didn’t know what would happen to me.”

Left-handed Saunders (4-4, 3.48 ERA) will turn 32 on Saturday and face his friend and ex-teammate Ervin Santana (3-7, 5.74) in a 7 p.m. game.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Saunders, who was 54-32 as an Angel from 2006 to 2010 and made the 2008 All-Star team. “I was going to a team that wanted me, a team going through a youth movement and building.”

And although the Angels have been out of the playoffs since the trade, Saunders helped the Diamondbacks win the National League West last season with 12 wins.

“There’ve been a lot of changes over there,” Saunders said about the Angels. “A lot of guys who were there when I was there have moved on. It’s almost like any other team now.”

Saunders said he’s closest to his former minor-league teammates Santana, catcher Bobby Wilson and shortstop Erick Aybar.

Regarding his game plan for Saturday, Saunders said it’s the same as any start: “Throw strikes, get ahead in the count, pitch to contact and keep us in the game.”

Weaver works out

Injured Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver said he threw his full array of pitches in a 60-pitch, four-inning simulated game Friday and reported that he “felt great.”

Weaver, sidelined since May 29 with a lower back strain, is scheduled to throw a round of batting practice Sunday if he feels good Saturday, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.

Weaver faced Hank Conger, Ryan Langerhans and Peter Bourjos in Friday’s effort, joking that Conger left after fouling a “shin-burger” off himself.

Asked if he could pitch next week against the Giants or Dodgers, Weaver said, “I don’t want to put a number on it. I’m still day by day.”

Health watch

Sidelined catcher Wilson (concussion) will play Saturday and Sunday for Triple-A Salt Lake and said that as long as he feels no ill effects from the injury, he plans to return to the Angels for Monday’s game against San Francisco.

Reliever Scott Downs threw some pre-game pitches off a mound and was hopeful of being cleared to pitch after tweaking his ribs Sunday, when Carlos Gonzalez hit a line drive at him in Colorado.

Downs was also nearly hurt in May by a liner hit at him in Cleveland.

“I don’t like balls hit back at my head — that’s for sure,” Downs said.