Griffin Canning aims to break Angels’ bad-luck streak with platelet-rich plasma injections
Maybe this time will be different, and an Angels pitcher who receives an injection of platelet-rich plasma in his elbow will not only return to action at a high level but avoid surgery that would sideline him for at least a year.
The team’s recent track record with the procedure, which is supposed to promote healing in the ulnar collateral ligament in hopes of avoiding major surgery, has not been good.
Shohei Ohtani received a PRP injection in June 2018 and had Tommy John surgery that October. Andrew Heaney and Garrett Richards had PRP injections in the first two months of the 2016 season; both eventually had Tommy John surgery, Heaney in July 2016 and Richards in July 2018.
Griffin Canning, a former UCLA star who showed promise as a rookie in 2019, hopes to break the streak. The 24-year-old right-hander had a PRP injection in early March after an MRI test revealed chronic changes to the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and acute irritation in the joint.
Canning resumed throwing in April. By Friday, when the Angels reopened training camp, Canning had built up enough endurance to throw three innings and 60 pitches in a simulated game, putting him in line to start a COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 60-game season July 24.
Angels right-hander Julio Teheran was absent from team workouts again Saturday, and manager Joe Maddon did not disclose the reason.
“It just feels like normal, honestly, like my elbow has felt in the past, when I haven’t had any issues with it,” Canning said before Sunday’s workout. “That’s probably the best way to explain it. … It’s something I’m going to have to work with and manage, but I definitely feel 10 times better than I did in the spring.”
Canning, a second-round pick, went 5-6 with a 4.58 ERA in 18 games — 17 starts — in 2019, striking out 96 and walking 30 in 90 1/3 innings. But as the summer wore on, Canning found it more difficult to loosen up between starts.
“It wasn’t necessarily sharp pain,” Canning said. “I could warm it up and manage to get through what I needed to [in games]. It was more after throwing, how tight and stiff it would get, and I would lose a lot of range of motion.”
Canning was diagnosed with mild inflammation in the elbow in late August and sat out the rest of the season. The elbow problems persisted this spring, leading to the PRP injection and some tinkering to Canning’s routine between starts.
“The biggest thing is bouncing back after an outing, figuring out what works best for me,” Canning said. “I feel confident it’s going to hold up.”
Baseball’s three-month shutdown allowed Canning to rehabilitate his elbow and build up arm strength without missing any games. “I mean, selfishly, the timing definitely worked out for me,” he said. If he remains physically sound, Canning should boost the team’s rotation and playoff hopes.
“I’ve been impressed with him since I saw him at start of regular camp,” Angels first-year manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy is a premier pitcher, he’s not just a pitcher. With good health, he’s going to have a nice major league career.”
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have clauses in their lucrative contracts that provide luxury suites for a number of home games each season. Now, thanks to social-distancing protocols, the rest of the Angels are enjoying such perks this season.
Players are using the clubhouse as a dressing room, but their downtime in Angel Stadium — before and after workouts, waiting for treatment or batting-cage time — is spent in club-level luxury suites stretching from home plate to the left-field corner. Most players on the team’s 40-man roster have their own suites.
“It was Billy’s idea, and when he ran it by me a couple of weeks ago, I thought it was brilliant,” Maddon said, referring to general manager Billy Eppler. “We treat the locker room as a closet. In other words, come in, get dressed, get out of there.
“When guys break away, they have their separate, self-contained units with refrigerators, music, whatever they need. The players are appreciative. It permits us to follow all the protocols in a way that is nice, amenable to everybody.”
The Boston Red Sox took a similar approach, giving each of their players suites in Fenway Park. Maddon and the rest of the Angels coaches have moved their offices to the dugout suites in Angel Stadium.
Maddon said that Heaney, barring injury, will start the July 24 season opener. … Heaney, Ohtani, Matt Andriese and Taylor Cole are scheduled to pitch in the team’s first intrasquad game Tuesday. … Veteran pitcher Julio Teheran, expected to be in the Angels’ rotation, remained absent for a third straight day of workouts Sunday, though Maddon couldn’t say why. Among the team’s other notable absences are first baseman Matt Thaiss, pitcher Patrick Sandoval and infielder Luis Rengifo.
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