Status of Angels' Jason Vargas is unclear; Peter Bourjos avoids DL

The Angels declined to update the status of left-handed starter Jason Vargas on Monday, but center fielder Peter Bourjos said in a text message he has been cleared to play once the swelling in his left thumb goes down.

Bourjos, the team's second-hottest hitter in June with a .364 average, jammed his hand sliding into second base in the second inning Sunday. He succeeded in breaking up a double play, leading to a pair of runs, but he injured his thumb in the process and had to leave the game an inning later.

X-rays at the stadium were negative and Bourjos, who already has spent 40 days on the disabled list this season because of a strained hamstring, was listed as day to day. But he skipped the team's charter flight to Detroit so he could been examined further by hand specialist Steven Shin.

"No DL," wrote Bourjos, who is expected to rejoin the Angels on Tuesday. "Once the swelling goes down I can play."

Vargas, who went on the disabled list Friday because of a blood clot under his left arm, also had a medical appointment with a specialist early Monday. Before that visit, the Angels said they were unsure how long Vargas would be out, but Manager Mike Scioscia said surgery was "definitely a possibility."

That uncertainty could create a number of problems for the Angels. Not only does it create a hole in their rotation — one that will be filled in the short term by Jerome Williams — but questions about Vargas' health could hamper efforts to deal him should the team decide to do that before next month's non-waiver trade deadline.

If the Angels remain out of playoff contention, Vargas would make an appealing target for teams such as San Francisco and Baltimore, who are expected to seek pitching help. Vargas, the American League pitcher of the month in May when he was 5-0 with a 2.30 earned-run average, is owed less than $4.5 million over the rest of the season, after which he can become a free agent. He has nine quality starts and a 3.65 ERA in 14 games this season, but the Angels might be persuaded to move him in return for the kind of prospects they need to rebuild their shallow farm system.

Confidence stirred, not shaken

The Angels' bullpen ERA jumped nearly a quarter of a run, to 4.11, in the final two innings of Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, when Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen gave up seven runs, five hits and three walks while getting four outs.

It was a massive meltdown considering Frieri hadn't given up a run in his 10 previous outings, retiring the last 22 batters he faced. And he hadn't blown a save since April.

Jepsen, who spent time on the disabled list because of a shoulder strain, had given up only one earned run since April 9 and held opponents scoreless in 15 of his first 18 appearances this season.

But Jepsen said he and Frieri have no choice but to forget that game and move on — something that will be a little easier to do as both have spent parts of five seasons in the majors.

"It's a huge thing," Jepsen said. "As you get more experienced in the big leagues, you can keep your confidence even when things aren't going well, because you know you can turn it around."

Speaking of turning things around, with Pittsburgh closer Jason Grilli giving up a season-worst three runs and five hits in the bottom of the 10th Sunday, the Angels and Pirates combined for 10 runs and 10 hits in the final two innings. In the previous four innings, neither team managed a run or a hit.

Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.

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