ANAHEIM -- The Angels have now tried almost everything to get Josh Hamilton going at the plate. They've batted him fifth against a left-hander, batted him fifth altogether, and on Saturday, after an 0-for-4, three-strikeout night, manager Mike Scioscia gave him his first day off in hopes that it would "clear some cobwebs out."
"I think he just needs to exhale a little bit," Scioscia said. "Maybe just take that step backwards to get to his goal of swinging the bat the way he can quicker."
Entering Saturday's game against Orioles starter Freddy Garcia, Hamilton sports a .208/.252/.292 slash line, with 37 strikeouts -- the seventh most in the Majors -- in 120 at-bats. The 31-year-old lefty, signed to a five-year, $125 million contract over the offseason, has gone deep only twice through his first 29 games and has swung at the third-highest amount of pitches outside of the strike zone (44.2 percent).
"It's weird," Hamilton said Friday. "How come I don't feel that way? Usually, when I do feel that way, I really am lost, and I feel like I have no clue what's going on. So, I don't know. I'm not going to think about it."
Hamilton has said he feels fine at the plate, unlike other spurts throughout his career when he knows something isn't right. The biggest reason for his struggles, he said before Friday's game, was that he's seeing a lot of off-speed pitches -- the second most in the Majors, per FanGraphs.com -- and he isn't ready to hit the fastballs when they come.
In his first three plate appearances on Friday, Hamilton saw seven consecutive fastballs from Miguel Gonzalez, who doesn't really boast overpowering stuff. He swung through five of them, was late on one for a foul pop-out and took another for a strikeout.
Fastball, curveball, changeup -- right now, Hamilton is struggling with all of them.
"He's just not where he needs to be in the batter's box, that's the bottom line," Scioscia said. "I don't think it's anything about intimidation or anything about a contract. It's about a confidence level, and it's about getting comfortable in the batter's box. And he will."
Shuck impresses as utility man, injury replacement
ANAHEIM -- Entering Spring Training, J.B. Shuck looked like a long shot to make the team -- and then he cracked the Opening Day roster. Twelve days into the season, he was on his way back to the Minor Leagues because the Angels needed an extra infielder, only to be called up the next day when Erick Aybar was placed on the disabled list.
Now, with Peter Bourjos sidelined indefinitely with a left hamstring strain, Shuck is essentially an everyday left fielder.
"It's fun to play every day, but you never want to see a guy go down, and you don't want to get a spot like that," said Shuck, the former Astros outfielder who was obtained on a Minor League contract this offseason. "My job is to do what they need me to do. Right now, it's to fill in for Pete."
And Shuck has done so admirably so far, with five hits in 13 at-bats. In Friday's 4-0 win over the Orioles, the 25-year-old left-handed hitter went 2-for-3 with a bunt single and showed off his solid speed and that short, compact swing that made him so appealing to the Angels out of Spring Training.
"To me, the shorter the swing, the easier it is to take a few days off and be able to come back," said Shuck, who's generously listed at 5-foot-11. "My job is just to get on base, so that helps in that way, too."
Madson throws Saturday morning bullpen session
ANAHEIM -- After having scar tissue removed in Arizona and going two weeks without throwing from a mound, Angels reliever Ryan Madson got back on the hill Saturday.
Madson, recovering from a Tommy John surgery that's kept him out of Major League games since September 28, 2011, threw a bullpen session Saturday morning.
The Angels will monitor Madson's bullpen and see what the next step is.
"There's so much that goes into throwing a bullpen as far as not only how you feel in the 'pen, but rebounding," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Just throwing the 'pen is only part of the equation, how he feels tomorrow, how the next 'pen goes. It's a process that you have to keep clearing some hurdles, and hopefully we moved ahead with some things in the last little time we shut down."
Madson threw a simulated game two weeks ago, but felt tightness shortly after and had not thrown off of a mound since. However, Madson did play catch on Thursday.
Although he went a while without picking up a baseball, Scioscia does not believe the setback added any significant time to Madson's recovery.
"If he has some good bullpens, he's probably closer to pitching in games then he was when he was throwing the sim-game," Scioscia said.
Weaver set to throw off mound next week
ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver is expected to throw a bullpen session next week, marking the first time he will throw from a mound since landing on the disabled list with a fractured elbow on his left arm a little less than a month ago.
"Very likely," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he's still got to go through his long toss process and come out fine, so I think the exact day is still a question mark. But I really think next week, the middle-to-end of next week."
Weaver has been playing catch from flat ground almost every day, and he was expected to be backed up to about 150 feet on Saturday. Scioscia said the goal is to have Weaver play long toss from about 180 feet.
If Weaver remains on track with his long toss and next week's bullpen goes well, a rehab stint may be on the horizon.
• Asked about Sean Burnett's visit with Dr. James Andrews on Monday, Scioscia said, "I don't anticipate there being that much difference of what is going on in Sean's elbow. I think it's hopefully something that there's a quick remedy for."
Andrews performed Burnett's Tommy John surgery in 2004 and removed two bone spurs from his elbow this offseason. "I think it's just another set of eyes and hands on him," Scioscia said.
• Scott Downs, who felt some soreness in his right rib cage area during Wednesday's outing, is available out of the bullpen.
• Mark Lowe, who was placed on the disabled list on April 20 with a neck strain, is expected to be activated for Tuesday's opener against the Astros. The right-handed reliever will pitch two innings for Class A Inland Empire on Sunday.
• Luis Jimenez once again got some work in left field prior to Saturday's game. Scioscia said he's "showing some good instincts," and added that he "could consider" starting Jimenez there against a lefty.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.