Garcia has been dealing with back soreness the last five days, he said at Target Field, where the Angels began a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins. The pain worsened Sunday as the right-hander pitched the eighth inning of the Angels’ 5-1 road loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
“It’s nothing serious,” said Garcia, whose 18 appearances are tied for the third most among Angels relievers. “I’m going to get back soon.”
A similar injury sent reliever Cody Allen to the injured list at the end of April. He returned as soon as his 10 days were up.
The Angels could have replaced Garcia with rookie reliever Jake Jewell or left-handed starter Dillon Peters, who pitched out of the major league bullpen last month. Manager Brad Ausmus said it is best for Peters to remain in a starting role at triple A. That left Cole, a former starter, as the only option who could throw more than one inning in relief.
“He pitched well when he was here,” Ausmus said.
Garcia, 32, has not been one of the Angels’ most efficient relievers this season. He has walked 13 batters, more than any other Angels reliever. But he has often wiggled out of trouble by reducing the amount of hard contact made against him and keeping the ball on the ground. The Angels’ defense has also backed him up. Garcia, who has a 2.25 ERA, caught a break Sunday when left fielder David Fletcher made a diving catch to rob the Orioles’ Rio Ruiz of a bases-loaded hit and end Garcia’s inning.
Garcia has pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings over five appearances in May. He has struck out four, given up three hits and issued two walks in those outings.
For the first time since being activated from the injured list as a hitter last week, two-way player Shohei Ohtani returned to his throwing program. He made 70 throws on flat ground Monday afternoon, stretching out to 110 feet.
Ohtani will resume his previous rehab schedule, throwing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as he builds strength in his right arm. At some point this summer, he will advance to throwing off the mound in bullpen sessions. He will cross the last step of facing hitters sometime in the fall, general manager Billy Eppler said earlier this month.
Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Oct. 1. Typically, a pitcher begins facing hitters about 12 months after the procedure.
To open or not?
Felix Pena is due to take his next turn on the mound Tuesday, but Ausmus said he didn’t know whether he will again employ an opener for the right-hander.
Pena hasn’t started since April 19 because of his inability to maintain stamina through an entire start. To give him a boost, Ausmus used a reliever to pitch the first inning of Pena’s last three scheduled starts. Pena threw seven scoreless innings and gave up only three hits while striking out seven his last time out against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
Pena, who is trying to establish himself as a starter before left-hander Andrew Heaney (elbow inflammation) returns from the injured list, credited his longest outing of the season to eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and protein bars during the game.
Asked whether a similar solution might help the Angels choose to start Pena in the first inning, Ausmus laughed and said, “It’s possible, yeah.”