Angels reliever Scott Downs says he fractured big toe 'playing around with the kids'
Angels reliever Scott Downs would not go into detail about how he fractured a bone in his left big toe Sunday night, an injury that will force the veteran left-hander to open the season on the disabled list and is expected to sideline him until at least mid-April.
"I was just playing around with the kids; let's keep it at that," said Downs, who has an 8-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. "Unfortunately, the timing couldn't be any worse. Hopefully, I'll be back sooner rather than later."
Asked if he was satisfied with the explanation Downs gave him, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, "Absolutely. We've all worn flip-flops and know things can happen."
Downs, a former Toronto Blue Jays reliever who signed a three-year, $15-million deal to be one of the Angels' set-up men, said he thought he had just stubbed his toe at first, but when he woke up Monday the toe was "bigger than normal" and discolored.
The Angels sent Downs to Southern California to be examined on Tuesday, and X-rays revealed a fracture in a small bone near the tip of the toe. Doctors did not give Downs a timetable for his return, but they determined surgery will not be necessary. Downs will wear a walking boot for several days but will still be able to play catch and ride an exercise bike to stay in shape.
"It's one of those things," said Downs, who went 5-5 with a 2.64 earned run average in 67 games for the Blue Jays last season and hadn't allowed a run in four innings this spring. "Everyone has those freak accidents. As frustrating as this is, there is a bright side. It's not a major injury, and there's no surgery."
It wasn't Downs' first freak injury. In 2009, he hurt the same toe while breaking out of the batter's box in an interleague game in Philadelphia in June, and he went on the DL twice that season, in June and August, because of the injury.
"It was my only at-bat in the big leagues," Downs said, "and it will be my last at-bat."
Right-handers Jason Bulger and Rich Thompson, who are both out of options and can't be sent to the minor leagues without passing through waivers, could benefit from Downs' injury.
Five relievers -- Fernando Rodney, Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen, Jordan Walden and Michael Kohn--appear to be locks for the bullpen, and the sixth spot would most likely go to Bulger or Thompson. If the Angels open the season with 12 pitchers -- and seven relievers -- Thompson and Bulger could both make the team.
-- Mike DiGiovanna in Tempe, Ariz.
Photo: Scott Downs. Credit: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press