Bulger, Stokes look to return to Angels' bullpen mix
Jason Bulger admitted his rehabilitation stint at triple-A Salt Lake was "a little longer than expected," and Brian Stokes joked that he spent so much time at Salt Lake that he "almost rented an apartment up there."
On Wednesday, both were back where they started the season, with the Angels, the right-handers activated off the disabled list and looking to re-establish themselves after missing the bulk of the season because of injuries, a sore shoulder sidelining Stokes on May 11 and a shoulder strain sidelining Bulger on June 12.
"It's been a rough year," said Stokes, who was acquired from the New York Mets for outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. last winter. "I want to re-prove myself. I can go back out there knowing I'm 100%."
Stokes went 2-4 with a 3.97 earned-run average in 69 games for the Mets last season but was hampered by shoulder problems with the Angels, going 0-0 with a 7.31 ERA in 15 games. Bulger had a breakthrough 2009 season for the Angels, going 6-1 with a 3.56 ERA in 64 games. He had a 3.74 ERA in 22 games for the Angels this season.
Both spent most of August at Salt Lake, Stokes going 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in 16 2/3 innings over 13 games and Bulger going 0-0 with a 0.96 ERA 9 1/3 innings over 10 games.
"I had to get everything right, get everything healthy--it was a very productive rehab stint, for sure," Bulger said. "I needed to get everything back in order after being out for two months."
Stokes didn't really mind the extended rehab stint.
"I wanted to prove I could pitch in back-to-back games and go multiple innings," he said. "I did everything I needed to do there. I'm ready to go."
Bulger was expected to play a prominent short-relief role this season, and Stokes was expected to be the team's long man. Both hope to use September to regain their form and confidence and better position themselves for 2011.
"This game is a proving ground every day, and every time they're out there they will be evaluated," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have a lot of things to sift through, and part of it will be evaluating some arms we thought we were going to have in our bullpen that, because of injuries, haven't performed to the level they can. We'll see where we are at the end of the season."
--Mike DiGiovanna in Seattle