The Angels' bullpen remains as stout as ever, Huston Street pitching himself into — and out of — a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night to preserve a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field.
The offense showed signs of emerging from a two-week funk, with Mike Trout highlighting a three-run first inning with a laser of a two-run home run to left field, Josh Hamilton hitting a solo shot to right in the third and Chris Iannetta driving in a key insurance run with a two-out double to left in the sixth as the Angels cut Oakland's lead in the AL West to one game.
But some cracks are forming in what has been the foundation of the team's success, a solid rotation that ranks second in the American League in opponents average (.236), third in strikeouts (584) and fourth in wins (44) and earned-run average (3.76).
Tyler Skaggs was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of what the Angels called a "forearm strain." Skaggs, who underwent an MRI test, said doctors told him he has a "flexor tendon strain," which could be a precursor to a more serious injury.
Flexor tendons help control the movement of the hand, which might explain why Skaggs lost the feeling in his fingers after injuring his arm on a strikeout of Baltimore's Delmon Young on Thursday night.
Dylan Bundy, one of the Orioles' top pitching prospects, was diagnosed with a similar injury, a flexor mass strain, in the spring of 2013. Bundy received a platelet-rich plasma injection to accelerate the healing process and tried to rest and rehabilitate his arm.
Four months later, after he started a throwing program, Bundy was found to have a slight tear in the ulnar collateral ligament. He underwent Tommy John surgery and has been sidelined for the past year.
Doctors told Skaggs he has not damaged his UCL, but there is no timetable for his return. Asked if he was confident Skaggs would pitch again this year, Manager Mike Scioscia said, "I hope so. The initial indication is that it's going to take a little time to settle down."
The next step for Skaggs will be to seek another opinion from an orthopedic specialist in the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area. As of Friday, there was no plan to consult Dr. James Andrews, the renowned surgeon who performs most of the Tommy John procedures on major league pitchers.
Skaggs remains optimistic, but the fact is, neither he nor the Angels really know the severity of his injury at this point.
"I have no clue right now," Skaggs said, when asked about a timetable for his return. "It's pretty sore. I'm just going to take it day by day and stay positive and look forwardHopefully, it gets better in time. There is really no prognosis. It's kind of on me and my body and my arm."
This is the second stint on the disabled list for Skaggs, who missed most of June because of a right hamstring strain. Until this season, in which he is 5-5 with a 4.30 ERA and has mixed bursts of dominance with stretches of ineffectiveness, Skaggs had never missed a start.
"For me, it's uncharted water," Skaggs said. "It's been frustrating. I've had flashes of showing my full potential and flashes of showing some really bad outings. But I'm young. I just turned 23. I have a lot of future ahead of me."
The Angels can absorb Skaggs' injury because they have a solid sixth starter in Hector Santiago, who was expected to be bumped to the bullpen when C.J. Wilson returns from a right ankle sprain Saturday. Now Santiago will take Skaggs' rotation spot.
But the loss of Skaggs leaves the Angels with no margin for injury because the team's organizational rotation depth drops off precipitously after Santiago.