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Angels reliever Justin Anderson will undergo Tommy John surgery

Angels relief pitcher Justin Anderson throws to the Texas Rangers.
Angels reliever Justin Anderson tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery next week.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

Reliever Justin Anderson won’t pitch for the Angels for the foreseeable future. The team announced Friday that Anderson, the team’s 14th-round pick in the 2014 major league draft, tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery next week.

Anderson, who was slowed in spring training by an oblique muscle strain and missed a few weeks last season because of soreness in his right trapezius, said he felt something off in his elbow while pitching during a July 10 intrasquad game. He continued to pitch through discomfort, thinking maybe he “was just being soft.”

After four consultations, Anderson and medical professionals figured at worst he might have bone chips in his elbow. An MRI exam done after inflammation in his elbow had gone down revealed a full tear of his UCL.

“We didn’t ever think about the inside because I didn’t have any pain there,” he said. “I didn’t have pain when I moved my arm. I didn’t have pain on any of the tests they ran.”

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Remember the version of Shohei Ohtani that blistered baseballs and launched them over the fences of Angel Stadium? You should be seeing him again soon.

Anderson will return to his home state of Texas, where he will be operated on by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas on Wednesday. The Angels often send pitchers to Dr. Neal ElAttrache of Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles, but Meister came highly recommended. Anderson also liked the option Meister provided: Rather than replace the torn ligament with a tendon from another part of the body, Meister will reinforce Anderson’s elbow tissue with a muscle.

“Theoretically, you like to think about it, you’re going to put a muscle back in your elbow,” Anderson said. “Well, that seems pretty smart. You’re just going to add strength to a ligament right there. That just makes sense to me.

“To me, in my mind, it seems like I will come back stronger. It’ll be more foolproof, I believe.”

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Anderson, who debuted in 2018, had a 4.75 ERA, issued 72 walks and struck out 127 batters in 111 outings the last two seasons. He was expected to slot into a middle-relief role this season. Now a 12-to-18-month rehabilitation process awaits him.

“I’m pretty anal when it comes to taking care of my body and the things I put in, the things I want to do to it to make sure I’m able to ... perform at the peak level,” Anderson said. “It’s one of those things I was not prepared for by any means at all. I felt totally fine. I felt fine for years in my elbow, never had an issue.”

Expected to be shunned by fellow players and taunted by fans in visiting parks this season, the Houston Astros will be shielded by health and safety precautions.

Unlike in previous years, the Angels have enough depth to absorb Anderson’s absence. Among the options is Jacob Barnes, a nonroster invite about whom manager Joe Maddon has raved since spring training.

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Because there are no restrictions on the number of pitchers teams can carry this season, Maddon expects to have about 10 or 11 relievers at his disposal, at least for the first 14 days. That number could be whittled down as the roster shrinks from 30 to 28 players after two weeks and to the regular 26 players after four weeks.

Short hops

Third baseman Anthony Rendon was scratched from Friday’s intrasquad game because of tightness in his oblique muscle. He will be reevaluated Saturday. ... Right-hander Julio Teheran, who has missed the first three weeks of training camp, arrived at Angel Stadium for the first time. Maddon wasn’t sure whether Teheran had begun his intake screening but said “everything’s pointing in the right direction.” Teheran hinted he might have been infected with COVID-19 in an ESPN interview last week. If that’s the case, he must test negative for the coronavirus twice during a span no shorter than 24 hours before being cleared to begin team workouts. ...
Of note from the 6½-inning game: Tommy La Stella homered in a 3-1 count off reliever Noé Ramirez. Starter Matt Andriese had five strikeouts in parts of five innings. Left-hander Patrick Sandoval yielded one hit and two walks over two innings. Reliever Keynan Middleton gave up three hits and a walk in a two-run outing.


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