Angel infielder Johnny Giavotella had to go back to the basics to get over a rare nerve condition that left seeing double for nearly a month.
And that meant inviting his mother to Southern California to care for him for a couple of weeks, just as she did when Giavotella was a Little Leaguer.
“It was awesome,” Giavotella said Friday, shortly after being reactivated following five weeks on the disabled list. “I got some home cooking. She drove me around everywhere.
“It was tough not being able to do things on my own. [But] her help, it went a long way.”
Giavotella, who had a two hits and two RBIs, including a run-scoring triple in Friday’s win over the Seattle Mariners, was third on the team in on-base percentage and fifth in runs scored when he became afflicted with fourth-nerve palsy, a condition caused by an irritated nerve that prevents the eye muscles from working properly.
As Giavotella waited for his vision to stabilize, Taylor Featherston got the bulk of playing time at second. But he hit just .197 over that span.
“Johnny’s got a short little swing, he can give us a spark,” Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. “And we definitely could use that from the offensive side.”
Giavotella said the condition cleared up about a week ago, allowing him to face live pitching at the Angels’ instructional league facility in Arizona. The team’s medical staff then cleared him to return to the active roster.
“I’m a guy that, whenever he’s ready, I’m going get back in the lineup as soon as possible,” he said. “We’re in the playoff hunt.”
No ace in the hole
Garrett Richards, 15-11 with a 3.73 earned-run average after Friday’s win, is scheduled to make one more regular-season start on four days of rest. That would leave him on track to start a one-game wild-card playoff next month, if the Angels get that far.
But with the team still a half-game back in the playoff race with nine to play, Scioscia may not have the luxury of holding his ace back.
“I don’t think we’re going to have those options,” he said. “We’re going to need our guys to win in Texas and get us to that game. That’s the reality of it.”
And that reality may mean starting Richards against the Rangers in next Sunday’s regular-season finale, which would leave the team without many good pitching options in the wild-card game.
In the National League, probable wild-card opponents Pittsburgh and Chicago figure to start a pair of Cy Young award candidates in Gerrit Cole (18-8, 2.60) and Jake Arrieta (20-6, 1.88). The New York Yankees, who would probably play host to the American League wild-card game, can choose from a pair of 12-game winners in Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka.
But who is the Angels’ best pitcher if Richards is unavailable?
“That’s a good question,” said bench coach Dino Ebel. “If you go by just track record and experience, it’s [Jered] Weaver.”
Added pitching coach Mike Butcher: “There’s [not] an ace, like a Roy Halladay or a Nolan Ryan or a Steve Carlton-type guy out there. We’re a group of guys that have to play together to win games.”
That may mean starting Richards in the regular-season finale instead of the postseason opener.
“We’re not going to hold anything back,” Scioscia said. “We want to get there.”
Is the Shoe fit?
Right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who has pitched just once since Sept. 1 because of stiffness in his right forearm, is uncertain for his next scheduled start Tuesday against Oakland.
“We’re going to see,” Scioscia said. “We have some things we’re still looking at with Shoe and [Nick] Tropeano. We’ll have a decision here shortly.”