Andrew Heaney has already played catch at least 20 times this year, from farther and farther distances. His recovery from Tommy John surgery is humming along at its expected pace. The timing of that operation and his continued progress has created an interesting question: Could the Angels’ left-hander possibly pitch this season?
The usual timeline ranges from 12 to 18 months. Sept. 1, the day rosters expand, will mark 14 months from the date of his surgery in July 2016. If the Angels are in the playoff hunt, which they hope to be, the availability of their No. 2 starter from last season would be a boon.
Heaney, 25, does not want to rule that out. He also does not want to specify when he hopes to return.
“I’d like to let other people talk about it,” he said. “I have a goal in mind, but it’s my goal, nobody else’s.”
Others are more willing.
“I know, if there’s an opportunity, he doesn’t want to just take the whole year off and show up next spring training,” teammate and throwing partner Garrett Richards said. “If he doesn’t have any setbacks, he’s expressed to me he’d like to pitch at the end of the year, whether that’s in the instructional league or here.”
Tyler Skaggs took a similar approach after his August 2014 surgery, then reversed course and waited to pitch until the spring of 2016. That is what the Angels expect in Heaney’s case.
“From the information I have available right now, there is nothing that would make him available to pitch this year,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “I just don’t see it happening.”
Ultimately, Scioscia said, it would be a medical decision, not made by the club or the pitcher.
Before surgery, Heaney tried the stem-cell therapy that has allowed Richards to pitch normally. It did not take. He said he considered the shorter, exploratory surgery that ex-Cardinals reliever Seth Maness underwent for a similar elbow tear over the offseason, but concluded there was not enough data to commit.
While Heaney waits, he has added a hobby that could decrease the Angels’ ecological footprint at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
“I’m an aspiring environmentalist,” he said. “We don’t even have any recycling bins around here, so I’m gonna bring some in. Everybody drinks [from] water bottles.”
From there, he said, he’ll handle it. He has researched a nearby recycling plant to take the goods.
“I’m just as wasteful as every other person, but I’d like to think that in mass groups like this, improvement could be more impactful,” he said. “And it starts with one person, you know? You can start a change, and then everyone else starts changing and thinking about it. Maybe I’ll make it a game and create competition.”
Meyer’s new delivery
Alex Meyer, the Angels’ prize acquisition at last year’s trade deadline, said he made the biggest adjustments of his career to his delivery over the offseason.
The 6-9 right-hander, acquired alongside Ricky Nolasco from Minnesota for Hector Santiago and Alan Busenitz, made the changes at the Angels’ request. His windup, essentially, is less pronounced. The hope is that will lessen the opening between his right shoulder and his glove hand. There’s reason to believe that gap caused much of the shoulder discomfort he experienced when he was with the Twins.
“They see some things that will hopefully give direct results, in terms of getting less stress on my shoulder and my arm,” Meyer said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to do that.”
Meyer, 27, is in competition with several men for the Angels’ fifth starting-rotation spot. He may have a better chance than most to win it, because of a strong pedigree and his flawed but encouraging September performance last season. He struck out 24 and walked 13 in 21 2/3 innings and logged a 4.57 earned-run average.
But if he does not make the opening-day roster, the club has indicated he would start for triple-A Salt Lake rather than relieve in the major leagues.
“He’s coming in as a starting pitcher,” Scioscia said this week. “That’ll be the path we want to exhaust before you consider other things.”
Cactus League play begins in one week, but most Angels big-league starters and relievers will not pitch in the first few games. There are several extra games scheduled this year to accommodate those playing in the World Baseball Classic. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is the most notable Angels player who will participate. He’s expected to play in the first Cactus League games with second baseman Danny Espinosa, to build a double-play rapport. … Four Angels prospects — left-hander Cody Ege, right-hander Keynan Middleton, and catchers Taylor Ward and Jose Briceno — attended the Lakers’ game against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, met the Lakers afterward, and got basketballs signed by the entire team. … The Angels’ first full-squad workout is Saturday.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura