The numbers don’t paint a favorable picture of reliever Cody Allen.
Through his first 14 innings in an Angels uniform, he has a 5.14 earned-run average, 14 walks, four home runs allowed and 17 strikeouts. He has spent the season laboring to regain the form that once made him one of baseball’s most dominant closers.
Since returning from the injured list May 7, the 30-year-old has shown signs of correcting his course.
“It’s baby steps in the right direction,” he said. “But I feel like after the last few [outings], I definitely feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”
Allen had five scoreless appearances to open the season before walking nine and striking out seven in his next four innings. In a span of six games, his ERA jumped to 6.00 and he was demoted from the closer role he’d signed a one-year, $8.5-million contract to fill. Then he hit the injured list because of a lumbar spine strain that bugged him for at least a week before he finally succumbed to it.
“It gave me an opportunity to step back and take a deep breath,” said Allen, who avoided the injured list the first seven years of his career with the Cleveland Indians. “All those gains we had made with [my mechanics], we just knew the only way it was going to get better was if we took four or five days without throwing a baseball or doing anything.
“And it was.”
Allen is allowing fly balls 61.5% of the time and yielding more hard contact than all but three other active pitchers, according to exit velocity provided by MLB’s Statcast system. Combined, those numbers create disaster for pitchers.
But Allen believes he is close to reverting to his usual pitching profile, which features more ground balls than fly balls and much softer contact. The mechanical adjustments he’s worked on since spring training have come more naturally. He said muscle memory eluded him during the first weeks, but he no longer thinks about the changes when he’s on the mound.
Allen has allowed some hard-hit balls since coming off the injured list, but the early results have provided encouragement. In an outing against Minnesota last week, he rebounded from a 110-mph leadoff single and walk by collecting a strikeout and inducing soft enough contact on fly balls for the two final outs. The velocity on his fastball, which has declined steadily since 2017, averaged 93.9 mph for the first time this season.
Allen continued to improve in a scoreless outing Sunday against Kansas City.
“Each of his four outings since he came off the IL, he’s been better,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
Heaney’s rehab start could be his last
Left-hander Andrew Heaney finally may be ready to come back to the Angels. In a 4-1/3-inning rehab start with triple-A Salt Lake on Monday, Heaney struck out 10, gave up two hits and issued one walk on 73 pitches. His sinking fastball, which averaged 91.9 mph last year, was clocked at 92 to 93.
The Angels announced Griffin Canning and Tyler Skaggs as starters for this weekend’s series against Texas but left Sunday to be determined. They could decide to use an opener for Felix Pena, who would be due to pitch that day, or activate Heaney.
Reliever Luis Garcia said he is feeling “much better” since being placed on the injured list because of a lumbar spine spasm last Monday. He is confident he can rejoin the bullpen after this three-game series against the Twins. … When MLB announced its players of the week Monday, infielder Tommy La Stella was on the list of those recognized in the American League. La Stella batted .444 (12 for 27) with four runs and two homers. His 11 homers entering Monday tied for first among all second basemen. … Right-hander JC Ramirez, who had Tommy John surgery in April 2018, threw 26 pitches in an extended spring training outing Monday. . . . Tim Mead, the Angels’ outgoing vice president of communications, will assume his new duties as president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame on June 24.