Angels have heavy competition in AL West

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When the Angels play the Rangers on Thursday, for the first of only two times this spring, Josh Hamilton figures he'll start.

"I don't see why I wouldn't," Hamilton said of Thursday's game against his former team, at 6:05 p.m. PT in Surprise, Ariz. The Angels also finish their Cactus League schedule against the Rangers on March 27 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"It is what it is," Hamilton said. "I spent some time there, loved it there, but I play for the Angels now. I'm going to go over there and try to beat them."

Hamilton, batting .250 (7-for-28) with a homer and four RBIs in his first 11 Cactus League games, said he stays in touch with some of his former Rangers teammates through text messages "here and there, but for the most part, not really."

All of Hamilton's energy is on the Angels' complex, where his playful personality has endeared him to his new teammates and his desire to sign autographs for almost everybody -- each with its own Bible verse -- has delighted a new fan base.

Hamilton's regular season will start with a reunion tour -- to Cincinnati, site of his first Major League season in 2007, and then Texas, the place he starred from 2008-12.

"Spring has gone quick for me, I think because I'm in a new place," Hamilton said. "There's so much going on as far as getting to know people, figure out personalities and things like that. But I've fit right in. The guys are good with me. It's just a good clubhouse, as far as welcoming guys and making them feel part of the organization. You translate that towards the same mentality on the field, of just playing and having fun together. Nothing needs to change, from the clubhouse to the field."

Madson still sidelined with elbow tightness

Outlook: Madson should close in 2013

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ryan Madson, still struggling to get over the last hump of his year-long rehab, hasn't thrown off a mound since last Thursday, due to tightness in his surgically repaired right elbow.

Madson said he's felt "normal" the last two days, adding that the pain is nothing like what forced him to basically start from scratch six weeks ago. But he's "back to the day-to-day" stage of his recovery -- limited to throwing off flat ground and not exactly sure when his next bullpen session will come.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Tuesday morning that he expects Madson to get back on the mound "in the next day or two" and summed the tightness up as "the normal progression of the final stages of rehab."

"Sometimes," Scioscia added, "that last five percent takes a little bit of time."

In response, Angels trainers have tweaked Madson's rehab schedule. He was set to long toss on Tuesday, but while continuing to throw at a downhill angle -- avoiding the unnatural arm motion that may have caused his initial setback. When he does throw his next bullpen session, Madson will "leave about 50 percent of what I have that day in the tank, for recovery."

"We're just trying to figure out why it keeps tightening up after bullpens," Madson said. "It feels good, it feels good -- then, a day later, it's tight."

Madson is slated to start the season on the disabled list, and the Angels don't expect him to get in any Cactus League games. Their hope was that he would be able to get in some Minor League contests before the end of Spring Training, then begin a rehab assignment in April that could have him back by the end of the month.

This recent setback, albeit a small one, may jeopardize those plans.

Madson had Tommy John surgery on April 11 last year, and had four bullpen sessions under his belt by the time he threw on Feb. 1. Uncommon elbow soreness then prompted an MRI, which came back clean but kept the Angels' potential closer off the mound for the next 38 days.

Now, the 32-year-old right-hander has another hurdle to climb.

"I definitely feel a lot stronger than when I was throwing in January, in Anaheim," Madson said. "That was almost like infant stages, to where now I feel like it's way more mature, feeling strong and healthy. Intensity level is where I've run into problems now."

Snyder must catch on quickly to make Angels' roster

WSH@NYM: Snyder sends a two-run shot to left-center

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Chris Snyder's flight from Florida touched down a little before 7 p.m. PT on Monday. And at around 7 a.m. on Tuesday, the veteran catcher arrived at Tempe Diablo Stadium to find his name on the list of those traveling to Maryvale Baseball Park for his first game action.

If Snyder is going to make the Opening Day roster as the Angels' backup catcher, he'll have to be a quick study.

Snyder, 32, who signed a Minor League deal with the Angels shortly after being released by the Nationals, is in the American League for the first time and has less than two weeks to familiarize himself with an entirely new pitching staff.

"I tell you what, there's going to be a lot of hanging out in the bullpen when I'm not playing," said Snyder, who caught the last two innings against the Brewers on Tuesday and grounded out in his only plate appearance. "It's going to be just hanging out, talking with guys, getting to know everybody, and once you get on the field, then that's where you learn everything. I'm going to be watching in the dugout and paying attention and talking to everybody and trying to figure everybody out."

Snyder, brought in to give the Angels another backup option given Hank Conger's recent throwing issues, has a .225/.329/.385 slash line in his nine-year Major League career, but has also thrown out 29 percent of would-be base-stealers and is steady behind the plate.

Snyder is technically competing with Conger, John Hester and Luke Carlin for the backup job behind Chris Iannetta, but he can opt out of his Minor League deal if he isn't on the Opening Day roster.

And that's 13 days away.

"We're going to throw him in," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're going to try to get him acclimated here in the next couple days with most of our guys, have some meetings, make sure we're set so he understands the pitchers' stuff and everything and what every pitcher's trying to do. There's a lot that goes into it that he's going to have to make a quick study of."

Worth noting

• Shortstop Erick Aybar (Dominican Republic) and non-roster reliever Fernando Cabrera (Puerto Rico) squared off in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic from AT&T Park in San Francisco on Tuesday. Regardless of the result, Aybar and Cabrera will fly in from the Bay Area on Wednesday and are expected to rejoin the team for workouts by Thursday.

• Kevin Jepsen, who hasn't pitched since March 9 because of tightness in his right triceps, played light catch on Monday and long-tossed Tuesday. He'll return to game action within the next few days, as long as his next bullpen session goes according to plan.