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Smith 'confident' he'll return this week

Angels setup man progressing in sprained ankle rehab

ANAHEIM -- Joe Smith's sprained left ankle still feels "cranky" every morning.

"The ankle," Smith said, "wakes up like my attitude."

The Angels' setup man is frustrated that he can't help his team at its most critical juncture, embarrassed that he's out of action because he tripped down a flight of stairs. But Smith has also progressed rapidly. He threw a bullpen session on Sunday, took part in pitchers' fielding practice prior to Monday's series opener against the A's and plans to throw off the mound again on Tuesday.

"Today was one of the first where you could see the light at the end of the tunnel," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "but there's still some things he needs to get a little more proficient at."

Smith expected to be available before the end of the regular season.

"Yeah," Smith said of his confidence level of returning before Sunday's season finale in Arlington, "confident."

Smith's loss was big enough when he hurt his ankle at the team hotel in Minneapolis on Sept. 19, in the morning before a doubleheader, but it's magnified now that closer Huston Street will definitely miss at least this week with a Grade 1 strain of his left groin.

"I want to pitch," said Smith, with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP amid a relatively down season. "The scary thing with a leg injury is, if you're favoring it at all when you pitch, that stress goes to different areas. But I feel good every day that I've done mound work. It's only been two days, but it's come really quick. I feel very confident. Hopefully today I have a good recovery day, tomorrow throw a bullpen. That's the plan."

Smith ditched the high-top shoes he tested during his bullpen session on Sunday because he doesn't feel comfortable wearing them. The 31-year-old sidearm reliever will simply tape his ankle heavily and believes he won't need any cortisone shots.

As for opponents bunting on him because he's hobbled?

"They can try," Smith said. "They'll be giving me an out; I appreciate it. I can move, I can field, I can cover first base."

Worth noting

• The Angels will begin selling tickets for a potential tiebreaker game at Angel Stadium on Thursday, at 10 a.m. PT. Tickets will only be available through the Angels' website. The Angels would host a tiebreaker against the Twins on Monday because they won the season series. They'd travel to Houston if it's against the Astros because they dropped 10 of 19 against them.

• Start time for the Angels' game against the Rangers at Globe Life Park on Saturday has been moved to 10:05 a.m. PT because FOX will broadcast it on national television. Saturday will be the third of a four-game series, with the finale taking place at 12:05 p.m. Sunday. First pitch for games on Thursday and Friday are slated for 5:05 p.m.

Chris Iannetta caught Hector Santiago for the third straight time on Monday. Scioscia likes the way the two work together, but also thought Monday would be a good time to start Iannetta because Carlos Perez was expected to do the bulk of the catching for whatever remains of the Angels' season.

Mike Morin, who has given up one run and struck out 17 batters in 11 innings in September, was not expected to be available Monday, Scioscia said. The 24-year-old right-hander has pitched in three straight games and four of the last five. Fernando Salas, Trevor Gott, Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez area all candidates to pitch in the late innings.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast.
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