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Angels pitching prospect Griffin Canning must prove himself before getting promoted

Angels pitching prospect Griffin Canning must prove himself before getting promoted
Angels pitcher Griffin Canning pitches in the seventh inning of a spring training against the Chicago White Sox on March 4, 2019 in Glendale, Ariz. (Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

Angels top pitching prospect Griffin Canning has been mowing down hitters for triple-A Salt Lake for the better part of two weeks. He took a step further in his most recent start: On Thursday night, he gave up no runs, not even of the unearned variety, in a six-inning outing. He worked around four hits, issued no walks and struck out six batters.

The Angels have always been impressed with the lanky, 6-foot-2 right-hander. But Canning, a 22-year-old native of Mission Viejo who was drafted out of the second round from UCLA in 2017, seems to have hit another level.

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Canning, who gave up six earned runs over four innings for the Angels during spring training , has struck out 17 batters and allowed only two runs (one unearned) in 16 innings.

Only one pitcher in the Pacific Coast League entered Friday with an earned-run average better than Canning’s minuscule 0.56 mark.

Asked if he had any plans for when Canning, who is not on the Angels’ 40-man roster, might break into the major leagues, general manager Billy Eppler said there was no plan.

“I tell all those guys, when we send them out of spring training, ‘figuratively, you’ll tap us on the shoulder when you’re ready,’” Eppler said.

Eppler said he wants Canning to continue developing his pitches, especially his secondary stuff. Canning throws a mid-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup.

The Angels could certainly use an arm like Canning’s in the starting rotation which, through Thursday, owned a 6.03 ERA in only 91 innings. The Angels had only seen their starter pitch six or more innings five times in their first 19 games.

Canning he must prove a few things first. Canning, who is beginning only his second professional season because he was shut down from pitching upon being drafted, has yet to make it through seven innings in one professional start. He also threw 82 pitches in his second start of the season, which lasted five innings, and 81 in Thursday’s outing.

“We try to look at what happens with his stuff as that fuel tank starts to dip more and more,” Eppler said. “Ultimately, you want to be able to arm the player with enough endurance to be able to last a few times through the [batting] order, so to speak.”

Should he continue on his current track, Canning could force the Angels’ hand.

“I think it’s obvious that we like the guy, we like the guy’s stuff, we like the guy’s makeup,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s pitched well. … We just we want to make sure he’s prepared to pitch here before he comes here. You gotta remember this guy hasn’t pitched a lot of professional baseball.”

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