ANAHEIM -- After an injury-riddled season, a surgical procedure, a nine-month rehab and a frustrating setback, lefty reliever Sean Burnett finally returned on Friday night and retired the only batter he faced in his first Major League appearance in nearly in nearly a year.
"It's a special day for me," Burnett said before the Angels' 6-1 win over the Royals, during which he got the last out of the seventh inning by inducing an Eric Hosmer groundout to second base, "and a day I've been waiting for a long time. I'm excited, anxious to get back out there."
Burnett -- signed to a two-year, $8 million contract in December 2012 -- appeared in only 13 games last season before finally succumbing to elbow surgery in August, a procedure that saw Dr. James Andrews reopen the scar from Burnett's Tommy John surgery in 2004 and clean up residual scar tissue.
Burnett rehabbed all winter, started throwing bullpen sessions in Spring Training, had a bad reaction to a synvisc shot -- an injectable lubricant used to treat arthritis -- in late March, took a couple of steps back, then slowly worked his way into a rehab assignment with Double-A Arkansas, giving up three runs in his first appearance and then throwing five straight scoreless outings.
The 31-year-old's fastball sat mostly between 88 and 90 mph, which is about where he needs it to be.
"The biggest thing for me was the movement was there, the life was on the ball, and I was able to locate down in the zone and repeat it," Burnett said.
To activate Burnett off the disabled list, the Angels optioned first baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro to Triple-A Salt Lake, going back to the standard 13 position players and 12 relievers. Angels manager Mike Scioscia called Burnett "one of those guys that you don't realize what he brings until he's not here."
With Burnett -- 2.76 ERA, 1.23 WHIP with the Nationals from 2010-12 -- the Angels finally have a proven lefty reliever in a division with several menacing left-handed bats, one Scioscia can pair with Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri in the back end of the bullpen.
Scioscia would like to get Burnett a low-leverage inning to get him re-acclimated, but said "if that game situation finds him tonight, he's going to be out there."
"I'm there physically," Burnett said. "It's just now the anxiousness and the nerves of getting back out there and doing it again for the first time in a big league mound. The stuff's there, and the action on the ball is where it needs to be. It's just controlling my emotions those first couple times out and not letting the excitement get to me."
Rehabbing Hamilton scratched from Salt Lake lineup
ANAHEIM -- Rehabbing outfielder Josh Hamilton was a late scratch from the Triple-A Salt Lake lineup on Friday, due to lingering soreness after being jammed in his last at-bat the previous night.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Hamilton "has a little discomfort" in his surgically repaired left thumb, but added that he's expected to return to the lineup on Saturday and said the ailment is "nothing to worry about."
"Today it felt better," Scioscia said, "but they want to give him one more day to get over it and he's right now scheduled to play tomorrow."
Hamilton went 2-for-4 with a double in his rehab debut with the Salt Lake Bees on Thursday night, but was jammed in the ninth inning while facing hard-throwing Dodgers prospect Jose Dominguez and didn't feel right while taking batting practice the following afternoon.
Hamilton, out since April 8, was hopeful of being activated off the disabled list by Monday's series opener in Seattle, but that appears unlikely at this point.
"We're going to take this one day at a time with Josh and see where he is," Scioscia said.
Baylor continues to make steady progress
ANAHEIM -- Angels hitting coach Don Baylor is now able to put 30 percent of his weight on the right side of his body, which is still recovering from the fractured right femur he suffered while catching Vladimir Guerrero's ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day.
In a couple of weeks, he expects to amp that up to 60 percent.
Two weeks after that, he's hopeful of being at 80 to 90 percent, which could put him close to sitting in the dugout during games.
And before the All-Star break, July 14-17, the 64-year-old Baylor hopes to join the team on road trips.
In the meantime, Baylor, hired as the team's hitting coach this past offseason, has spent the early afternoons of the Angels' current homestand sitting on a cart driven by athletic trainer Rick Smith and watching his hitters take early batting practice.
"I feel a lot better when I'm out here, that's for sure -- on the field, seeing the guys, talking to them," Baylor said. "I probably text more than anybody around lately. I never texted until I started doing this. But I stay in touch with all the coaches that way."
Cowgill will continue to get playing time
ANAHEIM -- The return of right fielder Kole Calhoun and the impending return of left fielder Josh Hamilton means Collin Cowgill won't be an everyday player for the Angels much longer, but that doesn't mean he won't continue to get a fair share of playing time.
The right-handed-hitting Cowgill started in right field on Friday, with the left-handed Calhoun sitting against Royals lefty starter Danny Duffy as he eases his way back from the sprained right ankle that forced him to miss five weeks. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Calhoun "is too good a hitter to be platooned right now," but Cowgill can expect to continue to get at-bats if one of the three outfielders needs a day off, or one moves to designated hitter for a day, or the right matchup presents itself.
The 28-year-old Cowgill entered Friday's series opener against the Royals with a .293/.391/.394 slash line, while providing above-average speed and defense. He's reached base safely in 26 of his 29 starts -- not to mention 21 of his last 47 plate appearances -- and the Angels are 19-10 in his 29 starts.
As Scioscia said: "Collin will get his time."
"When a guy needs a break, I'm ready to go," Cowgill said. "No one wants these guys back as much as I do, and also the rest of these guys in this clubhouse. We need them back as soon as possible because we're putting together something special as a team."
• Lefty Hector Santiago, optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday, entered 2014 with 2.024 years of service time and would need to be in the Minor Leagues for roughly five weeks to not reach three full years and for the Angels to thus delay his free agency by a year. Even if he does stay down there that long, Santiago would still have a chance to qualify for arbitration this offseason with Super Two status. But he'd be a free agent after the 2018 season, rather than the 2017 season.
• Grant Green is a natural shortstop who is currently most comfortable at second base and has gotten more acclimated to third base and left field since coming to the Angels last July. Throughout this homestand, he's been getting early work at first base with infield coach Alfredo Griffin. The more versatility he shows, the likelier his chances of staying in the big leagues.
• Third baseman Ian Stewart, out since May 11 with a left hand contusion, had a "great" workout early Friday afternoon and looks on track to begin a rehab assignment on Saturday, manager Mike Scioscia said. Stewart is eligible to be activated off the DL by Tuesday. Stewart has been working on getting his hands lower to have a quicker path to the ball, which could help lower his strikeouts (31 in his first 24 games).
• The Angels shuffled some players in their Minor League system recently. Lefty reliever Nick Maronde (nine earned runs in 8 2/3 innings with Triple-A Salt Lake) was demoted to Double-A, while fellow southpaw Brandon Sisk (3.95 ERA for Double-A Arkansas) was promoted to Triple-A. Starting pitching prospect Mark Sappington (6.44 ERA in nine starts) was demoted from Double-A to Class A Advanced Inland Empire. Right-handed reliever Josh Wall (4.22 ERA in eight Triple-A appearances) was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on Thursday.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.