The scene wasn’t encouraging Sunday and neither was the news Monday for Keynan Middleton.
The Angels reliever was diagnosed with a damaged elbow ligament, an injury that could end his season.
Middleton will get a second opinion before deciding what to do next. Whatever course he and the Angels choose, he likely won’t pitch for a while.
“It’s tough news,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let’s take it one step at a time.”
The hard-throwing Middleton had emerged in his second big league season as the Angels’ best option to close games. He leads the team with six saves.
But he began May on the disabled list because of elbow inflammation. Middleton returned Thursday and appeared in three games before going down again.
He was lifted mid-batter after two outs and 12 pitches in the eighth inning Sunday against Minnesota.
His loss depletes a bullpen that has been heavily used and takes away the reliever who has appeared most comfortable pitching the ninth inning.
Jim Johnson, Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian have a save apiece, Scioscia is likely to move forward with a community approach to the late innings unless one of the relievers steps into the closer role.
“We’ve got some guys at the back end who are going to have to get outs for us,” he said. “How they line up in certain games, right now, will be dictated by how the game unfolds.”
Middleton is the sixth Angels pitcher to suffer elbow ligament damage since the summer of 2014 and the second to be significantly affected this season. Starter JC Ramirez had ligament-replacement surgery last month.
Felix Pena was recalled from triple-A Salt Lake to take Middleton’s roster spot.
On rehab road
On a rehabilitation assignment, reliever Blake Wood (elbow impingement) pitched a scoreless inning Monday for Class-A Inland Empire.