Angels’ Mike Scioscia to maximize use of ace Jered Weaver

SEATTLE — Manager Mike Scioscia will maximize his use of ace Jered Weaver in the final month of the season, keeping the right-hander on regular rest despite three off days in September so Weaver can make seven more starts beginning with Sunday’s game against the Seattle Mariners.

The schedule will enable Weaver to start the opener of a three-game series against American League West-leading Texas at home on Sept. 18, the opener of a three-game series against the Rangers in Texas on Sept. 28 and the regular-season finale in Seattle on Oct. 3.

Weaver, who is 16-3 with a 2.85 earned-run average and has held opponents to an American League-low .210 average, would not have to pitch on short rest. And if the Angels clinch a wild-card spot by the last game of the season, Scioscia would hold Weaver back to start the one-game wild-card playoff game.

“It’s gonna take more than Jered for us to reach our goals,” Scioscia said. “But the way Weav lines up right now, he’s got the maximum number of starts he can get, and we’d have some flexibility on that last day of the season.”

Second chance

Second baseman Howie Kendrick said his right knee “felt fine” after taking early batting practice Friday, and though he wasn’t in the lineup, he was available in an emergency.

Kendrick was pulled from Thursday night’s game in the third inning after tweaking his knee running off the field. He suffered a similar injury a month ago while breaking for a ball on defense, but the discomfort quickly subsided, and he remained in the game.

“This feels like it did the last time, when it came and went,” said Kendrick, whose 15-game hitting streak ended Thursday.

Bullpen boost

Reliever Scott Downs was en route from Kentucky to Seattle on Friday and will be activated for Saturday’s game, Scioscia said. The left-hander was placed on the family medical emergency list Tuesday, and he missed the three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox.

With rosters expanding Saturday, the Angels will not have to make a corresponding move to activate Downs, who is 1-1 with a 3.08 ERA in 44 appearances this season.

First things first

Albert Pujols, who missed four games last week because of a right calf injury, started his fourth game at designated hitter Friday, but he took ground balls at first base Thursday and hopes to return to the field soon.

“It’s tough to put a timetable on it — if it takes a week or two, it does,” Scioscia said. “We need his bat in the lineup, but he’s also a terrific first baseman, and we’d like to get that defensive presence in there, too.”

Dethroning the King

Felix Hernandez is 13-5 with a 2.43 ERA and five shutouts, including a perfect game, entering Saturday’s start, but the Mariners ace has struggled against the Angels, with a 6-10 record and 3.85 ERA in 27 starts against them.

“We’ve seen him a lot,” Scioscia said. “Not that it makes it any easier hitting a guy with stuff like his, but you get a better idea of what some of his tendencies are, and that might help you lay off a pitch once in a while.”