CLEVELAND -- Last year it was Scot Shields. Now it is Scott Downs, the free-agent signee, most recently of Toronto, who is providing the bullpen leadership for such young arms as closer Jordan Walden and Bobby Cassevah.
"Everything's going good," said Cassevah, who used his heavy sinker to deliver two innings and wrap up Sunday's victory at Baltimore. "I'm breathing a little better, slowing the game down. I'm throwing the sinker for strikes and not trying to nitpick. That's how I get in trouble.
"One of the big things Downs talks about is, when the crowd gets loudest, that's when you need to slow it down. He's my mentor out there. Shields was my guy last year; now it's Downs. He's always there. You feel like you can go up and have a conversation with him."
Downs, whose 1.32 ERA in 34 innings has been a major factor in the Angels' moving to eight games above .500, is the unofficial captain of the bullpen as far as Cassevah is concerned.
"He's a country boy," said Cassevah, discovered by super-scout Tom Kotchman as a 34th-round Draft pick in 2004. "It makes us kind of click. We went out to dinner [on Sunday] night. He bought us sushi. We had a good time. Anything you can learn from older guys is great for us younger guys."
Walden, no fan of sushi, passed on the meal.
Cassevah, 25, has a 3.38 ERA in nine appearances and is holding opposing hitters to a .163 batting average.
Haren rebounding from back stiffness
CLEVELAND -- Dan Haren, coming off a pair of substandard performances, was dealing with "minor stiffness in his back" in those starts at Oakland and at home against Texas, manager Mike Scioscia said on Monday before the right-hander faced the Indians at Progressive Field.
"He wasn't extending the way he needs to," Scioscia said. "He needs extension to get the fastball down on both sides of the plate. His last start wasn't what he wanted it to be."
Haren was charged with seven earned runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings in the Angels' dramatic come-from-behind victory against the Rangers. He had yielded four earned runs on 10 hits against the A's in his previous outing, ending a run of four consecutive wins and six in eight starts.
Scioscia said that the back issue flared up after the All-Star break, Haren having won the game before the intermission against Seattle at Angel Stadium with 8 2/3 innings of labor.
"He was battling it a little in Oakland," Scioscia said. "He felt much better in the last start. It isn't bothering him now. It's nothing he hasn't pitched with before."
After giving up more than one earned run just once in his first 11 starts, Haren has yielded four or more earned runs in four of his past 11 outings.
Rodney returns, and brings the heat with him
CLEVELAND -- The temperature wasn't all that was smoking-hot in Baltimore over the weekend. Fernando Rodney, like his bullpen buddy Jordan Walden, was bringing the heat in his return to action.
"His stuff was electric," manager Mike Scioscia said of Rodney's perfect inning, complete with two strikeouts, on Saturday against the Orioles. "He had great stuff down in the zone. He got some fastballs by some pretty good fastball hitters."
Rodney, who was sidelined for 35 games with stiffness in his upper back, went exclusively with heaters even though a lot of hitters consider the changeup his best pitch.
"I was throwing all four-seamers and two-seamers," Rodney said. "I was getting ahead and feeling good, so I stuck with it. I had good location, both sides. Maybe next time I'll use the changeup."
Rodney experienced significant pain, he said, when he tried to come back initially, but it has disappeared.
"No problem now," he said. "I'm ready to go."
A return to form by Rodney, who is in the second year of a two-year free-agent contract, could diminish the Angels' perceived need for bullpen reinforcement before Sunday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"Fernando throwing the ball well is like a huge trade acquisition," Scioscia said. "It's tough to get a guy who can throw anywhere from middle to late and give you the possibility to close."
Trout won't play a cameo role for Halos
CLEVELAND -- Mike Trout isn't here to pinch-run and occasionally pinch-hit, manager Mike Scioscia emphasized on Monday, about 24 hours after the 19-year-old super-prospect unloaded his first Major League homer.
"If his role is appreciable," he'll remain with the team, Scioscia said, adding that the more likely scenario, given the team's abundance of outfield talent, is a return to the Minor Leagues when his playing time dissipates.
Trout, who went 3-for-9 in two starts in Baltimore and is batting .179, will be kept only in the unlikely event the club can find at least three or four starts a week for him. Having excelled at Double-A Arkansas, Trout figures to join Triple-A Salt Lake when his time with the Angels expires.
"There's a learning curve we've hopefully bridged with [Peter] Bourjos and [Mark] Trumbo," Scioscia said. "There will be a time for that [with Trout]. That's a lot to put on Mike right now."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.