Bulger at end of disappointing year

Jason Bulger's season has mirrored that of his team's. For the Los Angeles Angels, it's been a year of injuries and disappointment.

The Angels were expected to continue their run of postseason appearances and the Brookwood graduate was counted on to be a key part of the bullpen. It hasn't worked out that way, though.

Los Angeles is struggling to play .500 baseball and Bulger is one of 15 Angels who have spent time on the disabled list, with nearly 800 total games missed.

Bulger's sore shoulder certainly doesn't rival the bizarre broken leg that slugger Kendry Morales suffered during a home plate celebration of a game-winning homer. But it didn't help as the team's bullpen has gone from strength to weakness.

The right-hander went on the disabled list June 12 and didn't go out on a minor league rehab assignment until early this month. He had made six appearances with Salt Lake of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League going into the weekend, allowing three hits and a run in 51/3 innings while striking out six and walking five.

Bulger, 31, had a breakthrough season last year after having plenty of ups and downs following his selection by Arizona in the first round of the 2001 draft out of Valdosta State. In 64 regular-season appearances, he was 6-1 with a 3.56 ERA and had 68 strikeouts in 652/3 innings. He also pitched four times in the postseason, once against the Red Sox in the first round and three times against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

But Bulger started this season slowly and then landed on the DL with a strained shoulder just when he had started to pitch well. He had held opponents scoreless in 16 of his last 18 outings, lowing his ERA from 7.00 on May 2 to 3.74 after his last appearance June 11.

"To have it happen right now obviously is very frustrating," said Bulger when he was put on the DL because of the soreness in the back of his shoulder.

Unfortunately, injuries are nothing new for Bulger. He had reconstructive elbow surgery early on in the Diamondbacks organization and shoulder woes in 2006 after being traded to the Angels. He was also involved in a scary outfield collision during batting practice late one season while pitching for Salt Lake.

Now rustiness and getting his mechanics smoothed out may be Bulger's major issues.

"The shoulder feels really good," Bulger said after a rehab outing in Salt Lake. "But I haven't thrown for two months. I still have some things to work on."

With Bulger on the disabled list, Gwinnett County is down to four active major leaguers -- Brian McCann (Braves), Jeff Francoeur (Mets), Jeff Keppinger (Astros) and Blake Wood (Royals).