Wade LeBlanc relieved struggling starter Garrett Richards in the first inning Friday night and threw 94 pitches over 6 1/3 innings in a 9-5 loss to Oakland, saving the Angels bullpen for the final two games of a series against the American League West-leading Athletics.
And what was his reward? The veteran left-hander was designated for assignment Saturday so the Angels could call up a fresh arm from triple-A Salt Lake, 32-year-old right-hander Jarrett Grube, who has never pitched in the big leagues.
“Pure and simple, it’s bad timing for Wade,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “But he threw a lot last night, and we needed some coverage and length in the bullpen for today and Sunday, so we had to get a fresh arm up here.”
Grube signed with the Angels as a minor league free agent in July 2012, finishing that season with double-A Arkansas and pitching for both Arkansas and triple-A Salt Lake in 2013.
He was 3-2 with a 3.52 earned-run average in 11 starts for Salt Lake this season, giving up 10 homers, striking out 51 and walking 18 in 61 1/3 innings.
After 10-plus seasons in the minor leagues, including one of independent-league ball, Grube found out late Friday night that he had been called up to the big leagues for the first time.
“It’s unbelievable,” Grube said before Saturday night’s game. “I’m still in shock. I’ve been choking up quite a bit today, with all the calls and text messages I’ve received from guys congratulating me.”
Grube, who throws a fastball, slider and split-fingered changeup, will be the long man in the bullpen for the next week or so. It’s not a plum assignment, but after toiling so long to get here, Grube is not about to complain.
“I had some doubts along the way, but I always tried to keep that glimmer of hope alive,” said Grube, whose wife and parents flew to the Bay Area from Fort Wayne, Ind., Saturday. “I can’t say I ever thought about giving up. . . . You think about [other career opportunities], but I didn’t really have anything else lined up.”
LeBlanc, 29, has a 4.53 ERA in 97 big league games with the San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins and the Angels, and his performance Friday night could prompt a team in need of starting pitching to claim him.
LeBlanc, who is out of minor league options, would have to clear waivers to remain in the organization and return to Salt Lake, where he went 5-1 with a 3.69 ERA in nine starts this season. There is also a chance the Angels could trade him.
LeBlanc wouldn’t have been available to the Angels until Tuesday, forcing them to finish the series with the A’s with a six-man bullpen.
Soon after LeBlanc was designated for assignment, the Angels announced they would use Monday’s off-day to skip Matt Shoemaker in the rotation, making Shoemaker available out of the bullpen.
But Shoemaker threw 73 pitches in Thursday night’s win over the Seattle Mariners and is not available to pitch this weekend, so the Angels felt they needed immediate depth in case Saturday night starter Tyler Skaggs struggles early.