ANAHEIM -- With Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in the mix, there were not a lot of questions about the Angels' offense prior to the 2013 season.
However, the starting rotation, and the entire pitching staff, was a different story.
Ervin Santana, Dan Haren and Zack Greinke had departed and Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson joined a rotation returning C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver, a 20-game winner in 2012..
The new-look rotation did not get off to the start general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia were hoping for, recording only four quality starts in the first 14 games of the season.
And one of those starts was from Weaver, who found himself on the disabled list with a broken left elbow sustained in just his second start of the season.
The Angels did not have a starter pitch into the seventh inning until April 13, when Garrett Richards -- filling in for Weaver -- pitched 6 1/3 innings.
Despite the rough start, Scioscia feels the Angels just need to pitch to their potential and the results will start to take care of themselves. It appears that is starting to take place.
"Some of these guys are good pitchers who really just took a while to get into their game," Scioscia said. "Garrett's throwing the ball really well, he threw a terrific game. Joe Blanton threw better the other day. You knew Jason Vargas was going to bounce back, his track record is too strong. C.J., after a rough couple innings, threw a strong game."
The Angels had put received quality starts in four of the last five games heading into Wednesday's finale with the Rangers.
The difference? According to catcher Chris Iannetta, it's just a simple matter of execution.
"Just throwing more strikes, more quality pitches," Iannetta said. "If you can throw strikes, and quality strikes, you are going to be successful. In the beginning of the season we were falling behind in counts and that makes it a lot more difficult to pitch."
During the Angels' latest run through the rotation, the starter has left with either the lead or the game tied in each of the past five games.
As the starters continue to go deeper into games, Richards expects the pitching to get better because of the momentum the staff is starting to generate.
"We're going to feed off of one another," Richards said. "The offense isn't going to be there every night and the pitching isn't going to be there every night, but the more times we are on the same page, the more games we are going to win."
Weaver plays catch for first time since breaking elbow
ANAHEIM -- While Angels ace Jered Weaver is still weeks away from taking back his spot in the starting rotation, the right-hander was expected to take another step in his recovery from a broken left elbow on Wednesday.
"He's going to play catch today," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I don't think it's going to be anything real exciting."
While playing catch certainly isn't "exciting," it is the most baseball-related activity Weaver has done since he was placed on the disabled list.
Weaver broke his elbow avoiding a comebacker hit by Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland in Texas on April 7. He has made two starts this season and is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA.
Aybar, Madson, Jepsen head to extended spring camp
ANAHEIM -- After an impressive workout prior to Wednesday's game, shortstop Erick Aybar's return to the Angels' lineup appears to be coming sooner rather than later.
"With the workout he had today, he really jumped up and got a lot closer to where he needs to be to play with us," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll see how he feels in the morning. Hopefully get out there and play some defense tomorrow in a game."
Aybar won't be playing in a game for the Angels on Thursday, but he will be on the field in Arizona for extended spring training, a more controlled environment for him to test his bruised left heel.
"I think the test is the mobility at shortstop, the prep step, getting into all the things it takes to play a baseball game, then rebounding from that and feeling good the next day," Scioscia said.
While Aybar will likely be the next Angels player to be activated from the disabled list, relievers Kevin Jepsen and Ryan Madson will be joining him in Arizona. Jepsen (strained lat) and Madson (April 2012 Tommy John surgery) are still a ways away from getting back on the mound in a big league game, but the Angels feel their relievers will make more progress in Arizona than if they were to travel to Seattle and Oakland.
"We have so many guys that our [trainers] are trying to handle right now, not only on the DL, but guys that are playing banged up," Scioscia said. "They are going to be able to get much further ahead in a climate like Arizona and getting the one-on-one attention they really need."
Jepsen and Madson are both expected to be back in Anaheim for treatment when the team returns for a series against Baltimore on May 2.
Aside from the treatment in Arizona, the next steps for Jepsen and Madson are still up in the air. Jepsen has yet to throw a baseball since he was placed on the DL and doesn't expect to until next week. Madson was supposed to throw his second simulated game during the current home stand, but never did and does not have one scheduled.
• Left-handed reliever Sean Burnett did not pitch Monday or Tuesday because of tightness in his left forearm. Scioscia did not have a prediction on when Burnett would again be available to throw in a game -- he did not rule out Wednesday night -- but did say Burnett is feeling better.
"He feels a lot better," Scioscia said. "I think surprisingly much further ahead than you might anticipate after having the exam and everything. He's going to go out a play a little bit of catch."
• Although the Angels must remove Tommy Hanson from the bereavement list by Monday, it remains to be seen when he will step back into the rotation.
"It's been a very emotional week for Tommy, and naturally we'll touch base," Scioscia said. "There's a lot of things we are going to consider."
Hanson left the team on Monday because of a death in his family.
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.