ANAHEIM -- For Angels fans expecting big things from potential new closer Ryan Madson, a cautionary tale can be Joe Nathan.
It's not that Nathan didn't recover nicely from Tommy John surgery -- he posted a 2.80 ERA with 37 saves with the Rangers in 2012 -- it's just that it took him a little while. And that Madson is only signed for one season.
The procedure, which Madson underwent in early April, requires pretty much a 12-month recovery. But many of those Madson spoke to said it usually takes up to 18 months before you're truly yourself again, which Nathan can tell you after posting a 7.27 ERA in his first three months back with the Twins in 2011.
With that in mind, perhaps it's best for Madson to start the regular season in a slightly minimized bullpen role before easing his way into the ninth later.
But Madson doesn't think that'll be necessary.
"I'd rather hit the gate running as much as I can," said Madson, who has incentives based on games finished and roster time that can push his contract from $3.5 million to $7 million.
"If there's a situation where it's back-to-back and it's not allowed, then that's fine. But if I'm available, I want to pitch in the ninth inning because that's where I think I've tuned my mentality. I've tuned just everything about the way I pitch to that inning. It is a lot different inning than the eighth."
The Angels haven't publicly stated that Madson will be their closer, but it's pretty clear that if healthy and right, he would be their preference, with Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs and the recently signed Sean Burnett making up a long bridge leading up to him.
Madson finally got a chance to be the full-time closer for the Phillies in 2011 and excelled, posting a 2.37 ERA, converting 32 of his 34 save chances and striking out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings. But in Spring Training with the Reds, after signing a one-year deal, non-threatening elbow irritation led to a blown-out elbow that prompted the 32-year-old to go under the knife.
Madson is currently doing about 120 throws from 120 feet, right in line with the plan set forth by Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels' medical director who also performed Madson's surgery. He was ahead of schedule earlier, then backed off to make sure the elbow ligament stretched out at a proper pace, and reports good health.
Madson doesn't have a set date to start throwing off a mound again, but he hopes it's by early January, making him fully ready for Spring Training and allowing him to be the closer by Opening Day.
But he knows to pace himself.
"The shoulder and all the muscles are ready, but that ligament, you have to keep in mind that it needs to become pliable more," Madson said. "And that's when people run into problems, because they feel good and they stretch it out too fast and it doesn't stretch. It's a heartier ligament -- it's not a tendon, it's a ligament. So, just patience with it."
Some flexibility exists to potentially add pitching
ANAHEIM -- With two months left in the offseason and four new, moderately priced pitchers added to the staff, all people seem to be wondering about the Angels is: Are they done?
"You can ask me that question 365 days a year and the answer is, 'No,'" general manager Jerry Dipoto said Wednesday, when Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson were introduced at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney. "We're constantly looking to get better, whether it's small subtle moves, whether it's increasing the depth in the organization, bettering our systems or programs or talking about impact free agents. We're always looking to get better."
Don't take that to mean the Angels are immersed in talks to acquire Kyle Lohse or Anibal Sanchez or Ryan Dempster or Edwin Jackson or basically anybody at this point. They aren't.
But they do have some, albeit very little, flexibility.
The possibility still exists for the Angels to acquire another free-agent starter in January if the market dries out on him and his price tag comes down -- like what happened to Madson last offseason -- a source told MLB.com.
Such a scenario may be unlikely, but is at least possible.
The Angels' payroll in 2013 isn't expected to be higher than $145 million, but owner Arte Moreno may be flexible with that if he feels the addition will go a long way in improving the Angels' pitching staff. The payroll right now, factoring arbitration projections and minimum salaries, is roughly $140 million.
Right now, the Angels have six capable starters in Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Hanson, Blanton, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams. But Williams can be a long reliever, like he was down the stretch last season, and Richards can still be optioned to the Minor Leagues.
Will the ideal opportunity to add another arm present itself in January? Maybe.
But the Angels, at least, don't feel like it has to.
"Our goal was to create one-through-12 pitching depth, and I feel like largely we've done what we've intended to do," Dipoto said. "I don't feel like anything else is imminent, I don't feel like anything else is pressing and I don't think anything else is required."
Annual party puts Angels in the holiday spirit
ANAHEIM -- For the last five or six years, parts of which he wasn't even in the Majors yet, Orange County product and Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo has been attending the Children's Holiday Party, which annually provides an unforgettable Christmas for underprivileged kids.
For him, it never gets old.
"I look forward to it every year," Trumbo said. "It's almost a no-brainer. If I'm in town or available, I'm going to come to it. Seeing how happy these kids are, and how excited these kids get, you can't help but get pumped up, too. It's really special. As a kid growing up, I went to some events -- not this, but things like this -- and I remember how cool it was for me going. So if I can give back, that's what it's all about."
For the third straight year, and in continuation of a tradition that has been going on since the 1980s, the Angels hosted about 200 children and 40 chaperones at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney on Wednesday.
The kids came from various Orange County groups, including Eli Home, Olive Crest Kristie's Foundation, Kidworks, Orangewood Children's Home and several local Boys & Girls Clubs. They heard a Christmas story ("Must Be Santa" was this year's choice), got all the autographs they wanted, played in the arcade, received Angels gear, took home presents, ate dinner and met Santa Claus.
Trumbo was joined by manager Mike Scioscia, athletic trainer Rick Smith, bullpen coach Steve Soliz and three SoCal-bred teammates -- C.J. Wilson, Hank Conger and new reliever Ryan Madson -- in an event put on by the Angels Baseball Foundation and AM830.
"It's everybody's dream to play for their hometown team," Wilson said. "But not only that, you get to donate time, money and love to your hometown community, and that's even better."
Hanson, acquired from the Braves in exchange for reliever Jordan Walden on Nov. 30, will be sporting Torii Hunter's old number in Anaheim: 48. It's the same number he wore in Atlanta.
The Red Sox called Dipoto just before the start of the Winter Meetings because they wanted to offer Gary DiSarcina the managing job with Triple-A Pawtucket. DiSarcina, with the good graces of Dipoto, took the job because he wanted another opportunity to manage and it's close to home.
"I think he's a great fit for that role," Dipoto said. "We wish him nothing but the best. He'll always be loved here. And I hope there's a day when he comes back and joins the Angels family again, because in our hearts, he'll never be gone."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and 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.