What Zach Neto’s oblique strain and Gio Urshela’s pelvis fracture mean for Angels’ depth

Los Angeles Angels shortstop Zach Neto throws to first base during the eighth inning of a baseball game.
Angels shortstop Zach Neto throws to first base during a game against the Rangers on Monday.
(Sam Hodde / Associated Press)

The Angels have an unmistakable resiliency, proven by their three recent road wins over the first-place Rangers and wins in nine of their last 11 games.

Yet, as the Angels close in on the midway point of the season, their depth is being tested again by injuries. They lost Zach Neto to an oblique strain and then watched Anthony Rendon and Gio Urshela get banged up during Thursday’s 5-3 win over Texas. Rendon avoided the injured list after taking a pitch to the wrist, but Urshela landed on the 10-day IL ahead of Friday’s game in Kansas City with a left pelvis fracture.

Although general manager Perry Minasian addressed the team’s depth in the offseason, the uncertainty created by injuries is hard to overlook as the Angels (39-32) sit 4.5 games behind Texas in the AL West and one game out of a wild card spot heading into their weekend series at Kansas City.


The severity of Neto’s injury was not disclosed when he was placed on the 10-day IL before Thursday’s game but even a Grade 1 strain, described as mild, requires a typical recovery time of 27 days, per For example, Andrew Velazquez — who was brought up by the Angels from triple A on Thursday to fill in at shortstop — spent over a month on the IL with an oblique strain and returned to action just a few days ago.

Shohei Ohtani pitched six innings for his first victory in five starts and matched the MLB lead with his 22nd homer as the Angels beat the Texas Rangers 5-3.

June 15, 2023

Velazquez can lock down shortstop almost as well as Neto in the field. What Velazquez doesn’t match at the moment, however, is Neto’s bat. In 23 games in triple A, Velazquez batted .203 with a .729 OPS, three doubles, one triple, three home runs, seven RBIs and 15 walks before going hitless Thursday.

A pelvis fracture can refer to anything from a small crack in the bone to, in most extreme cases, life-threatening, massive displaced pelvic fracture, explained Dr. Neel Anand, an orthopedic spine surgeon and co-director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles. Anand is not Urshela’s physician and spoke to The Times as an expert on the type of injury.

Urshela got hurt trying to outrun a throw to first base and Rendon stayed in the game after getting hit in the first inning. Manager Phil Nevin told reporters in Texas after the game that Rendon’s wrist was swollen and Urshela was on crutches with hip and knee issues.

That Urshela was able to remain in Thursday’s game another half inning and walked off the field on his own could suggest he could have a minor, but stable pelvic injury, Anand inferred. A stable pelvic injury, Anand explained, means that a patient “can still bear weight on it.” Patients with minor pelvic injuries, such as a strain, could heal in three to six weeks, Anand said. But the timeline for someone’s return from even a minor pelvic fracture is dependent on knowing what specifically is wrong and the severity of the injury.

Though the Angels said they are still trying to figure out how much time Urshela could miss, Nevin said he would be out “a significant amount of time.”


The best-case scenario would have been Rendon and Urshela avoid going on the IL, be considered day to day and the Angels would also still have Luis Rengifo or Brandon Drury (served a one-game suspension on Thursday) as options at third base. Urshela was meant to be the primary player who stepped in at third base if Rendon was absent, though he has shared some time at that corner with Rengifo this season. Michael Stefanic was brought up from triple A amid Urshela’s injury.

The Angels' Anthony Rendon gets hit by a pitch during the first inning against the Texas Rangers on Thursday.
The Angels’ Anthony Rendon gets hit by a pitch during the first inning of the team’s game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday.
(Richard W. Rodriguez / Associated Press)

Rengifo, who this season has played every outfield and every infield position except first base, would be the likely option to fill in at third, with Drury playing second, Velazquez at short and Jared Walsh at first if both Rendon and Urshela were absent. Catcher Matt Thaiss and Drury can also play first base.

Other infielders in the minors who have played in the infield for the big league team include Jake Lamb, who helped man first base alongside Urshela and Drury with Walsh on the IL to start the season; Livan Soto, who this season has made appearances at shortstop and second base; Stefanic, who filled in at second base in 22 games last year; and David Fletcher, who is currently on the bereavement list but would require the Angels to make a 40-man move if they decide to bring him back.

And in an emergency situation, Taylor Ward could make another spot appearance at first base. Hunter Renfroe, when he was acquired by the Angels this offseason, had also offered to shift elsewhere on the field if the Angels were out of other options.

But it’s not about having just any player on the field anywhere.

The Angels have played better of late because of contributions by Neto, Rendon and Urshela, at the plate and defensively.


The Angels picked up their sixth win in seven games as Zach Neto hit two home runs in a 9-4 victory over the visiting Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

June 11, 2023

They’ve each had clutch hits or walks and made eye-popping catches and plays, particularly Neto, who looked like a rookie of the year candidate — batting .259 with a .769 on-base-plus-slugging rate, six home runs, 12 doubles, 22 RBIs and 11 walks in 55 games — and whose spot batting ninth in the order was seen as another leadoff batter.

It’s a small sample size, but the Angels’ resiliency helped carry a lineup that didn’t include: Neto’s improving bat — he had his first multi-home run game during the Angels’ last homestand and got that sixth home run during the Angels’ series in Texas; Rendon’s ability to swing after his first at-bat; and Urshela’s presence altogether after the first inning.

Perhaps that resiliency and team buy-in — not to mention Shohei Ohtani’s hot hitting of late — can continue to help them until their ailing teammates return to full strength.

They’ll find out one way or another.