Before they played their 100th game of the season Saturday, the weakest part of the Angels’ roster took another hit. Starter Andrew Heaney was retroactively placed on the injured list because of inflammation in his left shoulder.
The injury, which began to bother the left-hander earlier this month in Houston, is not expected to claim much more than the 10 days Heaney is required to spend off the active roster.
“I think it’s something if we get in front of now, I could have a good two months at the end of the year,” said Heaney, who has a 5.09 ERA in 46 innings.
For a team struggling to make up ground in the wild-card standings largely because of the ineffectiveness of its starters, the injury development could still be damaging.
The starting rotation was the Angels’ most prominent deficiency entering the season despite offseason moves to shore it up. An elbow injury to Heaney kept him out of the big leagues until late May. JC Ramirez, still recovering from Tommy John surgery, didn’t begin his first rehabilitation assignment until about the time of Heaney’s reinstatement. Before those moves, the Angels promoted rookie Griffin Canning and watched winter acquisitions Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey struggle. Cahill wound up in the bullpen, where he likely will remain, and Harvey was designated for assignment Friday.
Tyler Skaggs, who died July and was beloved by the organization for his tenacity on the mound and leadership off it, had provided the most value in terms of wins above of replacement of anyone on the staff.
Now only Heaney, 28, remains as a veteran of the Angels rotation. He was a stalwart last year, leading the team with 30 starts, 180 innings and 180 strikeouts. He had never eclipsed those marks in a major league career earmarked by injury.
Heaney will not recapture that level of production this year. Missing two months at the start of the season had already put him on track for fewer than 25 starts. But he took comfort in knowing he might have avoided further jeopardizing his 2019 campaign by addressing his shoulder discomfort now.
“This is something that before I would have just kept pitching until something blew up,” said Heaney, who allowed a season-high nine hits in 4 1/3 innings in his last start against the Houston Astros on Tuesday. “That’s never the right way to go about it. I just thought I’d be more proactive and try and be a little bit more honest. Sometimes it’s hard. You just don’t want to admit defeat. Especially when I pitched four days ago, it’s hard to admit to yourself that you’re physically not able to perform.”
Heaney’s injury, no matter how mild, further exposed the Angels’ lack of experienced starting pitching depth. The team had to scrounge around triple-A for a suitable spot starter for Sunday’s game, which was scheduled to be Heaney’s 10th start, and landed on left-hander Dillon Peters. The 26-year-old has pitched in only four games for the Angels this season and owns a 6.47 ERA at triple-A in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Their second-best option, prospect José Suarez, is not eligible to rejoin the Angels until the weekend.
Manager Brad Ausmus wasn’t able to forecast with certainty who will pitch much beyond Sunday. All he could say was Félix Peña and Jaime Barria are locked in to pitch against the Dodgers on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Despite Angels’ starters combining for a 5.42 ERA, third-highest in the major leagues, Ausmus said Thursday the Angels were comfortable enough with their rotation to put Ramirez in the bullpen. He reiterated his confidence in the group of starters after Friday’s 10-0 loss to the Mariners.
The Angels entered Saturday trailing the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers in the race for second-place in the wild-card standings. They were 6 1/2 games behind second-place Oakland, which had won eight of 10 games.
The Angels need rotation reinforcements if they want to end their four-year postseason drought.
Fox Sports West decided against airing live the memorial service for Tyler Skaggs. The channel will broadcast it on tape delay Monday at 7 p.m. . . . The Angels claimed left-hander Adalberto Mejia off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. Mejia, a former starter and top organizational prospect, had an 8.80 ERA in 13 appearances this season.