TORONTO -- The Angels' wounded roster entered play on Saturday with a .500 record and the third-best run differential in the American League at plus-24, numbers they will gladly take, considering they have a slew of regulars on the disabled list.
What's even better news for the club is that a key group of players on the DL -- outfielders Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun and third baseman David Freese -- are all making progress on their road to recovery.
All three players are in Arizona at the Angels' Spring Training complex, and have intensified their rehab work. Calhoun, who hasn't played since April 15 due to a sprained right ankle, is the closest to rejoining Los Angeles. He could go on a rehab assignment as early as next week.
The 26-year-old has taken batting practice, participated in outfield drills and is feeling much better, said acting manager Dino Ebel. So, too, is Hamilton, who has been taking swings and soft toss. Hamilton suffered a torn UCL in his left thumb on a headfirst slide, which required surgery on April 11. He could be back with the Angels late this month.
"I was told those guys were going to go down there and continue the work they were doing with us at the stadium," Ebel said. "They were pretty excited, too. They didn't want to miss a beat."
Freese, meanwhile -- who suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right middle finger after getting hit by a pitch in a May 2 game against the Rangers -- has been participating in baseball-related activities. Ebel thinks Freese has a good chance to be activated off the DL on May 18, his first day of eligibility.
"He was feeling a lot better," Ebel said. "Just day to day with him, and pain tolerance. Gripping the bat, throwing the ball."
With Freese out, the Angels will continue rotating between a few players at third base. Ian Stewart started at the hot corner for Friday's series opener against the Blue Jays, and John McDonald received the start on Saturday.
"Right now, Freese is not here, but we will match up with a righty-lefty situation," Ebel said
Now in 'pen, Santiago could see big spots
TORONTO -- The Angels won't shy away from using Hector Santiago in high-leverage spots. And, really, they have no choice.
Santiago, who was removed from Los Angeles' rotation on Friday after going 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA over seven starts, is currently the only left-hander in the Angels' bullpen. He has relieved in the past with the White Sox -- whom the Angels acquired him from in a three-team trade during the offseason -- and will work out of the 'pen for now.
If the Angels are looking to exploit a left-on-left matchup in the late innings of a contest, it means Santiago will hear his name called.
"With Hector, getting him out there and getting him in and facing a left-hander, you have to get him in there," said acting manager Dino Ebel. "He has to get his chance."
Ebel said the club doesn't want to use Santiago in a blowout, either. The Angels want to test him.
"If the game is an 8-2 game, winning or losing, you can say, 'Hey, there is no pressure out there.' But I hope today it's a 2-2 or 3-2 game, and he comes in and he has to face a lefty," Ebel said.
"He has done it before, it's not a big surprise for him. He knows he is going to get the ball, and we will give it to him. If he gets out of it, it's a confidence builder. And if he doesn't, he is going to get the ball again in certain situations and go out there and do the job."
Santiago was originally slated to start Tuesday's series opener in Philadelphia, and the Angels have yet to announce who will take his place in the rotation.
McDonald greeted warmly in return to Toronto
TORONTO -- For John McDonald, crossing north of the border feels like home.
McDonald, who spent parts of seven seasons with the Blue Jays, was a fan favorite in Toronto and developed a cult-like status in the city. Fans loved him then, and they still love him now.
When McDonald entered Friday's series opener as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning, he was greeted with a loud round of applause.
For a journeyman who has largely been a bench player throughout his 16-year career, McDonald is amazed at the relationship he was able to build with the fans in Toronto.
"I don't think the fans here really know how much I appreciate the support," said McDonald, who started at third base on Saturday. "When you're not a superstar player and you can get support from the fans -- they make you better and allow you to take your game to a higher level."
When McDonald signed a Minor League contract with the Angels in the offseason, he immediately checked to see when Los Angeles was coming to Toronto and hoped, somewhat nervously, that he would still be with the team by the time the trip happened.
"As the days started ticking away and I knew I would be able to make the trip and play in front of the fans, it's special for me," McDonald said.
McDonald said his late father told him if he played the game hard and the right way -- whether he got the job done or not -- fans would respect that, and it would allow him to sleep at night. The 39-year-old said he ran with that advice, and it is a mindset that he's taken to the field every time he plays.
"I feel like a lot of people in Toronto identity with that and appreciate the effort," he said.
McDonald is right, but he doesn't believe that was the only reason the Toronto fans grew to adore him.
"The Blue Jays let me do a lot in the community, and that helped out a lot," McDonald said. "I got to meet a lot of people in Toronto. If you were around Rogers Centre in the morning, you would probably see me walking my son or daughter in the stroller."
McDonald, who has played in over 1,000 career Major League games, said he's feeling great. He knows his time in the game is winding down, but he's not yet ready to close the book on this chapter of his life.
"I love coming to the ballpark," he said. "You don't want it to stop."
Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.