SEATTLE -- Angels catcher Chris Iannetta was signed to a three-year contract extension worth more than $15 million after the end of the 2012 season, a pretty good signal that the team viewed him as the unquestioned starter moving forward.
That might still be the long-term theory, but in the present, Iannetta's slow start (.218 batting average, six homers, 27 RBIs entering Friday) has him splitting time with improved young backstop Hank Conger.
Fortunately for Iannetta, this isn't anything new. The catcher, who turned 30 in April, went through this while with the Colorado Rockies, splitting time with Yorvit Torrealba.
"I know how to deal with it," Iannetta said. "Basically I do anything I can to help the team win when I'm in there. I come to the field expecting to win every day. If I'm in the lineup I try to contribute any way I can. If I'm not, then my job is to ready myself for the next time and pull for the guys as hard as I can."
One thing that has been encouraging for Iannetta is his ability to draw walks. Iannetta had worked 46 free passes entering Friday, putting him well on pace to establish a career-high in that category, and it has led to a very respectable .365 on-base percentage.
Still, Iannetta said he's not satisfied with his overall results.
"Obviously I want to be playing much better than I am," Iannetta said. "I've had a tough first half. I've had a few good weeks, and the rest of it has been a battle. Luckily, even when I've been struggling I've been able to get on base, which is good, but obviously I'm trying to get hit and drive in runs. That's my job. That's what I'm trying to do."
Downs keeps getting it done
SEATTLE -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia has a good explanation for why lefty reliever Scott Downs keeps rolling along at the age of 37.
"He just knows what he's doing on the mound," Scioscia said.
Downs has been proving that again this year. Entering Friday's game against the Mariners, Downs was on pace for one of the finest seasons of his career. He had an ERA of 1.42 overall and had not allowed an earned run in 32 of his last 33 outings. Each of his last 24 appearances had been scoreless. Left-handed batters were hitting .178 against him.
"He's not going to beat himself," Scioscia said. "He really understands his stuff and especially understands in certain counts what he's trying to do, and I think where you see a dropoff in a pitchers' velocity from the time they're 28 or 29 until the time they're mid-30s, I think a pitcher like Scott, it has less of an effect on, because he still has the sinker, he still has the command, and he knows how to pitch.
"He's been able to continue to pitch at a high level, even pitching for so long."
Injured pitchers getting closer
SEATTLE -- The Angels have been as banged up as any team on the pitching front, but manager Mike Scioscia reported some progress on Friday as the Angels prepared to play the Mariners.
Starter Tommy Hanson, who has been on the disabled list with a right forearm strain since June 27, is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Saturday. Scioscia said he would throw somewhere around 30 or 35 pitches. "And then we'll evaluate what he needs to do over the [All-Star] break," Scioscia said.
Starter Jason Vargas, who is recovering from a blood clot in his left armpit area, is starting to play catch in Arizona this week but is "still going to be a ways away," according to Scioscia.
Reliever Sean Burnett (left elbow impingement) has been throwing up to about 90 feet, Scioscia said, but is not ready to throw off a mound.
"He's not experiencing any symptoms, which is good," Scioscia said. "Until he gets stretched out and gets on the mound, we're not really going to have as much of a read as we're going to need, but he's making progress."
Closer Ryan Madson, who is on the 60-day DL recovering from Tommy John surgery, has been throwing bullpen sessions in Arizona. Scioscia said he is hopeful that Madson could get in a rehab game after the break.
• Mike Trout and Howard Kendrick are the first Angels teammates with at least 105 hits before the All-Star break since 2000 (Darin Erstad and Mo Vaughn). Kendrick's 105 hits entering Friday were the most by an Angels second baseman before the All-Star break.
• Trout's 29 doubles entering Friday night's game were tied for second-most in team history before the All-Star break. Garret Anderson logged 30 two-base hits prior to the break in 2003.
• Friday was Kendrick's 30th birthday.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.