Pitching injuries quashed the Angels' playoff hopes in 2016, team officials have repeatedly said. The organization did not have the depth to overcome the loss of its top two starting pitchers and several relievers.
Now, the first injury of 2017 has struck. In time, the response can be judged. Angels reliever Huston Street suffered a back strain in his spring debut Friday and will not throw for the next 3-4 weeks, rendering him unlikely to be ready for opening day.
Street felt unusual during his scheduled one-inning outing Friday and underwent an MRI examination. On Saturday morning, a doctor examined the results and diagnosed the strain in his latissimus dorsi between Grades 1 and 2, where 1 is the least severe and 3 is the most.
"There's a reason I didn't throw that next pitch, because I felt enough to know that I shouldn't throw another pitch," Street said. "I'm extremely thankful I didn't throw another pitch, let me just put it that way. When you have something wrong with your muscle tissue and you're gonna throw another pitch at full speed, it's just way more damage."
A potential free agent at year's end, the 33-year-old right-hander is attempting to rebound from the worst season of his career. He lost 15 pounds over the off-season, per the club's request, and added muscle.
"You don't want to see a situation where a guy puts in so much work in the wintertime, not only with his own rehab but with his conditioning and how he approached everything [and then suffer an injury]," General Manager Billy Eppler said. "You don't want to see this happen. Regardless, we're disappointed, and I know he is as well. He'll endure this and he'll make it through."
Said Street: "I do think that all the work I put in this off-season will make it easier for me to recover."
The Angels had planned a closer competition among Street, fellow veteran right-hander Andrew Bailey and 2016 upstart Cam Bedrosian, but Street was always the likeliest winner. Now it becomes less certain. And, bothered by a groin strain to start the spring, Bedrosian has not yet pitched. He said he plans to Wednesday or Thursday.
"We're not gonna start handicapping this thing," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "But we've got real good arms that we're excited about. We'll just see how things play out as we go through the spring."
Skaggs' abbreviated start
A year ago, Camelback Ranch was the site of Tyler Skaggs' first game in 20 months, after his Tommy John surgery recovery. He spoke with vigor afterward about how wonderful it felt to be back.
On Saturday, Camelback Ranch was the site of an aggressive reminder of how much he must still fix this spring. He was scheduled to throw two innings in his first spring start but could not finish one, throwing progressively wilder.
"As you could see, I was amped to get out there," Skaggs said. "I thought the first three batters went well. After that, the wheels kind of fell off. I was all over the place."
The 25-year-old left-hander issued a leadoff walk to Everth Cabrera, but later picked him off and would have escaped the inning unscathed but for third baseman Yunel Escobar's throwing error.
Skaggs unraveled after it, throwing ball after ball for four walks in all. When he walked in a run, Scioscia pulled him.
Scouts in attendance timed his fastball between 89 and 92 mph at first, and then between 86 and 88 mph to the latter batters. That sort of drop is often cause for concern, but Skaggs and Scioscia maintained it was because the pitcher tried to tone down his throwing intensity in order to throw strikes.
"I was just guiding the ball in there, which is not what you want to do," Skaggs said. "It's one of those things where, every pitcher knows, when you start walking people, it's like, I want to throw strikes. Then you start thinking about it and the velocity drops. Everything starts hitting the fan."
Scioscia said Skaggs was not medically examined after his exit.
"Everything felt good," Skaggs said. "Changeup, curveball, fastball, but you can't pitch without throwing strikes. It was just a rough day."