The physical scar from emergency brain surgery is still clearly visible, zig-zagging from the tip of Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker’s right ear toward the top of his head, about four inches in length.
The emotional scars from the 105-mph line drive off the bat of Kyle Seager that struck Shoemaker in the temple last Sept. 4 at Seattle appear to have healed, the right-hander taking another big step in his recovery Thursday in his second spring-training start.
After a shaky spring debut in which he gave up two runs, walked two and threw a pickoff attempt past first base March 3, Shoemaker looked more comfortable in a 5-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark, giving up three runs and five hits in three innings, striking out six and walking none.
Shoemaker showed better command of his fastball, split-fingered fastball and slider, and he did not feel any of the anxiety or trepidation that marked other hurdles in his recovery, from his off-season throwing program to his first live batting-practice session to his first exhibition game.
“I don’t have any worry,” Shoemaker said. “I don’t even think about it, to be honest. So I think that’s all gone. … I think we’re ready to go. Now, it’s the process of getting ready to pitch, working all the rust off and getting your pitches where you want them to be.”
Shoemaker said that he was so excited in his first spring start that he overthrew most of his pitches. Though he gave up a two-run single to Ronny Rodriguez in the second inning and a solo homer to Austin Jackson in the third Thursday, Shoemaker was sharp with the exception of a few elevated fastballs.
“I’m still trying to get that good low-in-the-zone, ground-ball contact,” said Shoemaker, who was 9-13 with a 3.88 earned-run average in 27 starts before his injury last season. “And if they swing and miss sometimes, that’s great.”
Tyler Skaggs understands and appreciates the concern among fans who feared the worst when the left-hander was scratched from Friday’s start because of shoulder fatigue.
The here-we-go-again response from fans stems from Skaggs’ injury history, which includes elbow ligament replacement surgery and shoulder problems that limited him to 10 starts the last two seasons.
Asked Thursday if he was concerned about his setback, Skaggs said, “No, not at all. You throw 30 pitches in one inning, you’re going to be sore the next day. I appreciate the Angels being cautious with me, but at the same time, I took a few days, I’ll probably pitch Sunday or Monday, and I should be ready to go.”
Skaggs walked four and couldn’t complete the first inning of last Saturday’s start against the Chicago White Sox, his velocity dipping toward the end of the outing. A strength test the next day revealed a “deficit” in the shoulder that Manager Mike Scioscia said has already corrected itself.
Skaggs is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday and should be folded back into the rotation next week.
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