A year ago this week, right-hander Nick Tropeano was shaking off nerves.
He was slated to start his first Cactus League game since 2016, and the matchup was significant to him. He had not been on the mound for the Angels in more than 18 months because elbow ligament replacement surgery cut short a promising first full campaign as a starter in the major leagues. In February 2018, he was finally healthy enough to begin laying a new path for himself.
But that was then. Tropeano’s new reality features another spring training at Tempe Diablo Stadium full of rehab work. His recovery from a right shoulder injury that limited him to 76 major league innings last season was knocked askew in December.
“It’s real disappointing just because I was battling all year last year through it,” he said. “I wanted a clean slate coming in here.”
Tropeano, 28, said Wednesday that he will spend the next 2 1/2 weeks or so building strength away from the mound. The plan is to then start throwing bullpen sessions and ramping up his endurance for games. The process could take five weeks, without any backslides, and is likely to keep him off the Angels’ opening-day roster.
Concerns about his health compelled the Angels to offer Tropeano $1.075 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, but the club remains hopeful he can recapture his previous form. Before surgery ended his 2016 season, Tropeano threw a low-80s slider that batters missed 49.7% of the time, according to MLB’s Statcast system. The pitch lost about 1 mph in velocity in 2018 but was still missed more than 41% of the time.
The downtime should be beneficial. New pitching coach Doug White, who specializes in a method of training called Z-Health that enhances an athlete’s movement patterns, has been working with Tropeano for months on ways to improve his delivery. The mechanical adjustments encourage Tropeano to focus more on his lower half to help take stress off his shoulder and elbow.
“He's made it a little more simple,” Tropeano said. “I think we've made a lot of progress already and it hasn't even been two weeks yet. But I think we're headed in the right direction for sure."
A day after hitting in a group of prospects on the first day of full-squad workouts, top prospect Jo Adell found his name listed Tuesday in the same group as Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun. The change didn’t mean anything, manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday. The Angels this spring will pair players differently than in years past, depending on the work that needs to be accomplished.
“It’s completely logistical just because we have a lot of moving parts in camp,” Ausmus said.
– Right-handed starter Matt Harvey participated in an abbreviated bullpen session on the game mound at Tempe Diablo Stadium. He threw all his pitches and never felt a tweak in the left gluteus muscle that sidelined him for a few days last week. Now that he has been cleared by the training staff, Harvey will throw one more bullpen and live batting practice before being placed into the Cactus League rotation.
– Infielder David Fletcher, who played 80 games for the Angels as a rookie last year and is likely a front-runner to win a starting job out of spring training, will spend some time in the outfield this spring. Since the Angels will carry two first basemen, Pujols and Justin Bour, position versatility from someone such as Fletcher would offer the Angels room to experiment with their 25-man roster configuration.
– Two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who will be limited to serving as a designated hitter this season after having elbow ligament replacement surgery in October, said he is still on track to hit off a tee soon. He said on Sunday he hoped to progress to that stage this week.