SEA@LAA: Salas' running play saves a base hit

LOS ANGELES -- The last time Angels first baseman Albert Pujols and reliever Fernando Salas were teammates, in St. Louis in 2011, the then-rookie right-hander posted 24 saves as the Cardinals went on to win the World Series.

"I know him, and he looks to me like he's got his good stuff back, like he had in 2011," Pujols said on Thursday, before the Angels' Freeway Series opener against the Dodgers.

"He's a gamer," Pujols said. "He's not afraid of anyone out there, and he's obviously a huge boost for our bullpen."

The past two seasons with the Cardinals were not kind to Salas, who made a trip back to the Minors each of those summers, before being traded to the Angels with third baseman David Freese for outfielders Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk in a winter deal.

"I'm happy," said Salas. "I like this team, I want to help this team. Every teammate has helped me since I got here."

With familiar faces Pujols and Freese also in the Angels clubhouse, the transition to his new organization has been smooth.

"They've helped me, too," Salas said, "and they're good players."

Salas' first spring with the Angels has been solid on the mound. Although right-hander Ernesto Frieri is entrenched as the closer, the Angels have plans for Salas to pitch important innings in a setup role in a rebuilt bullpen that also features right-handers Joe Smith, also new to the team, and Kevin Jepsen.

"[Salas] is looking really good," manager Mike Scioscia said. "As the spring has gone along, his command has come together. Command is his main thing, but he's really throwing the ball well.

"We're counting on him at the back end of our bullpen."

Angels laud Burnett's performance in rehab

Sean Burnett is returning from an elbow injury. (Chris Carlson/AP)

LOS ANGELES -- Angels left-handed reliever Sean Burnett, who missed most of last season with an elbow injury, threw his second successful bullpen session Thursday at Dodger Stadium in the afternoon.

"This is the best he's been since he's gone back out there," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "The guy we're looking for is the guy who was out there today.

"He threw all his pitches. He had a heavy sink. We'll see how he comes out of this, and go from there, see if he can pitch back-to-back days."

Burnett's first season with the Angels in 2013 was limited to 13 appearances covering 9 2/3 innings with a 0.93 ERA.

"He hasn't pitched for a year, so he needs to go have a Spring Training," Butcher said, "but if he keeps progressing like this, it won't be long before he's facing some hitters."

Meanwhile, right-hander Dane De La Rosa (forearm) pitched a Minor League inning in Arizona.

"He felt good, he looked good," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's an important first step. We'll see how he responds."

Worth noting

• Right-hander Garrett Richards will start Friday against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, with left-hander Tyler Skaggs opening Saturday at Angel Stadium.

"Right now, we're pitching much better than we did at any time last spring," Scioscia said. "Having pitching like that gives us more confidence when we turn the page."

He credited pitching coach Mike Butcher with a slightly different approach to readying the pitchers this spring.

"He went at it at whatever pace the pitcher could go at," Scioscia said. "With our bullpen, in particular, it was a much more aggressive approach."

• Freese was back in the lineup at third base against the Dodgers after being scratched Tuesday because of quadriceps tightness.