ANAHEIM -- Right-handed reliever Yoslan Herrera is 32 years old, and when he pitched a scoreless inning in Sunday's 14-2 rout over the Mets at Angel Stadium, it was his first time on a Major League mound in six years.
"It was an incredible feeling," said Herrera, called up alongside Jose Alvarez from Triple-A Salt Lake when Dane De La Rosa and Matt Shoemaker were optioned. "It's a credit to the work I did all those years that I was away from the game."
Herrera was signed by the Pirates out of Cuba in March 2007, and did pretty well as mainly a starting pitcher in their organization, posting a 3.26 ERA in 234 2/3 innings, and even getting a five-start stint in the Majors in '08.
But Pittsburgh released him after the '09 season, and Herrera got a little down, and he lost his desire to play baseball, starting the 2010 season with a 6.08 ERA in six starts for the Twins' Triple-A affiliate.
And then Herrera just decided he was done.
"I just didn't want to play anymore," Herrera said. "But it was a mistake. Then, just sitting at home watching baseball games on TV, I started thinking, and I was like, 'I need to get back there. This is what I know how to do.'"
Herrera sat out the entire 2010 season before he started working out again, building himself back up and "starting from zero," as he said. He trained, threw some bullpen sessions, even got in some live batting practice from time to time. But teams weren't calling. And so Herrera spent all of the 2011 and '12 seasons merely working out from his Tampa, Fla., home, watching baseball continue to pass him by.
"It was frustrating," Herrera said. "Nobody had seen me pitch in games, so they weren't really interested."
Herrera finally hooked on in independent ball in 2013, working out of the bullpen for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League, and posting a 3.74 ERA with 11 saves in 59 appearances. He played winter ball in Mexico, got the attention of the Angels, signed a Minor League deal with no Spring Training invite in December, threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings for the Salt Lake Bees and finally got another crack at the big leagues.
"We needed him as more of a power arm," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Herrera, who features a curveball and 92-mph split-finger fastball.
"We only saw him a couple of times in spring, but he was really throwing well down there, and you saw his stuff really profiled out well [on Sunday]."
Halos' Hamilton to start working out Friday
ANAHEIM -- Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton was back at the ballpark for the first time on Monday, three days after undergoing thumb surgery that's expected to keep him out for six to eight weeks.
Hamilton will have his stitches removed on Friday, while also getting the hard cast around his left thumb replaced with a splint. He can't do any rehab with his surgically repaired thumb until May 2, but he can start running, lifting, swinging off a tee with his bottom hand -- the most important hand for a hitter -- and "doing all the things I need to do to keep in shape" once he gets the stitches removed.
Hamilton, who got back to about 240 pounds over the offseason, isn't concerned about losing muscle during his rehab, saying: "It's only a week, and then I'll get my stitches out and I'll be able to start doing leg workouts and body workouts. You can do a lot of stuff without gripping a barbell, so I don't see that being a problem."
The 32-year-old won't travel with the team on its upcoming three-city trip through Detroit, Washington and New York, and the Angels are planning to have Hamilton go to Arizona to do some baseball activities while they're in Toronto from May 9-11.
"I'm not going to put a time frame on it," Hamilton said of his recovery. "I'm just going to do what I need to do, as far as listening to the doctor, in terms of keeping it stable for the first two or three weeks. And then after that, once they tell me it's healed, I'll start doing rehab and being aggressive with it."
Hamilton suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament and also a torn capsule when he banged his left thumb into first base during a headfirst slide in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on Wednesday. It was a major loss for an Angels lineup that could be without its cleanup hitter and main power supply from the left side until June. And it's a major blow to Hamilton, who was named co-American League Player of the Week to start the season and was batting .444/.545/.741 through his first 33 plate appearances.
"I felt like my old self -- my 2010, '11, '12 self," Hamilton said in a news conference prior to the series opener against the A's at Angel Stadium. "That's why it's a bummer. But there's no reason why I can't come back and still feel like that."
Hamilton said he "reassessed" his headfirst slide as soon as he saw the replay, and in hindsight understands that he shouldn't have done it. Asked if he'll avoid sliding headfirst into first base moving forward, Hamilton, who has done it several times throughout his career, said: "I ain't gonna make any promises."
"What I've learned is no matter what you do, if something goes bad, you're going to catch criticism," Hamilton said. "When it goes good, no big deal. It just helps you guys write about a bunch of other stuff, so, you're welcome."
Halos' Burnett hopeful mound return nearing
ANAHEIM -- Sean Burnett threw his second simulated game in Arizona on April 5, and for some reason, his left elbow, surgically repaired last August and the cause of infinite frustration since his first season with the Angels in 2013, "just swelled up."
"It wasn't really painful," Burnett said from the Angels' clubhouse on Monday. "It just swelled up pretty bad on me. Obviously it was some type of fluid, but we don't know where it came from or what caused it. Doctors didn't have an answer for me. It went away in a couple days, and it's felt great since."
Burnett was planning to throw on Monday for the first time since the setback, his second of 2014, and is hopeful of getting back off the mound "in a couple days." The 31-year-old left-hander doesn't feel like this is anything like what happened last season, when he was limited to 13 appearances and could never get over the final hump, because he hasn't necessarily felt any pain in his arm.
"Yeah, I'm frustrated, but any time you have surgery, there's always bumps in the road," Burnett said. "When I threw here [in a sim game at Angel Stadium on April 2], before I went to Arizona, it was a huge positive, a step in the right direction. But for some reason, the elbow swelled up and I never got an explanation for it. They didn't figure it was anything big; they didn't even run any tests on it."
• Third baseman David Freese (.458 OPS heading into Monday) started the season batting ahead of second baseman Howie Kendrick (.621), but over Freese's last two starts, Scioscia has flipped his two right-handed hitters. Asked about Freese's early struggles, Scioscia said: "I think he's trying to get comfortable in the box. There are some things I think he wants to get comfortable with in his stance to find some things and let him get to pitches easier. He's working hard with [hitting coaches] Dave Hansen and Paul Sorrento on that. I think he just needs at-bats right now."
• Reliever Dane De La Rosa, back in Triple-A after his velocity was surprisingly low in his 2014 debut on Saturday, is "getting evaluated on some medical things and having some tests," Scioscia said Monday. "He feels good, he says he feels healthy, so I think you just want to explore why some of his velo is down," Scioscia added. "Once he's ready, I know he's going to get right back on the horse. And Dane De La Rosa is going to be a big part of our bullpen. It's just going to take a little more time."
• Kole Calhoun (.659 OPS) batted ninth on Saturday and fifth on Sunday, but he was right back in the leadoff spot against a right-hander on Monday, after his first multihit game of the season. Scioscia said he'd like to continue to use Calhoun in the leadoff spot, especially against opposing righties. Hank Conger started behind the plate for the second straight day because Scioscia wanted more left-handed bats against righty Jesse Chavez.
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.