Angels rookie starting pitcher Griffin Canning will return to the injured list.
Manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday that the right-hander, who has been the brightest spot in a rotation ravaged by injuries and the death of Tyler Skaggs, experienced a recurrence of the elbow inflammation that sidelined him earlier this month. Canning, the Angels’ second-round pick of the 2017 draft, returned to Southern California for testing and will undergo an MRI exam on Thursday.
Canning has a 4.58 earned-run average in 90 1/3 innings over 18 outings, but he has pitched better of late. After giving up 16 earned runs in four starts from July 4-25, he has surrendered four earned runs and held opponents to a .238 average in 17 innings over his last three starts.
The 23-year-old looked particularly sharp Sunday when he struck out eight Chicago White Sox batters, gave up one run and five hits and a walk and matched his season high by going seven innings. He did not give up a hit through 3 2/3 innings.
But amid that resurgence, soreness in his elbow cropped up after he threw six scoreless innings July 30. He spent 13 days recovering from an injury no one believed to be serious. It might not be serious this time, either.
“You talk about a young talented pitcher, you’re worried,” Ausmus said. “But right now we have no concerns it’s anything more than inflammation — and mild inflammation at that.
“I won’t read any more into it. It actually makes sense that sometimes it gets re-aggravated.”
Yet the Angels might exercise caution. Only 32 games remain after Wednesday’s series finale in Arlington, when they entered play 11 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. Canning, who threw 16 innings in triple A at the start of the season, is eight shy of exceeding his innings total from 2018. He has thrown 119 innings in a season only once in the last five years — in 2017, his final season at UCLA.
The Angels have closely monitored Canning’s innings, giving him extra rest in an effort to prolong his season. General manager Billy Eppler said two weeks ago he was optimistic Canning, then on the injured list, had been brought along slowly enough that he could pitch deep into September.
Stretching Canning to that point would certainly be useful in 2020. The Angels would better understand the limits of Canning’s durability.
Rushing back a young pitcher who figures to play a prominent role in next year’s rotation could also be risky.
Reliever Keynan Middleton will make an appearance for triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday night. It could be the right-hander’s final step in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Ausmus said Middleton could rejoin the Angels as soon as this weekend. ... Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, on the injured list because of a left ankle sprain, faced pitchers in batting practice Wednesday. He will catch up with the Angels in Houston, where he will resume his recovery.