Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Haney, Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano. Nice sounding rotation. Solid guys with a track record in Richards and Shoemaker, top-of-rotation talent in the phenom Heaney, and solid young prospects in Skaggs and Tropeano. Well, as of July 20, 2017, Shoemaker has pitched 77-2/3 innings this season, and the total amassed by the other four is all of 34 innings, 4-2/3 from Richards and 29-1/3 from Skaggs. Heaney and Tropeano have yet to see a major league stadium, as all five are on the LA Angels’ disabled list. That is Bad News Part One. Good news Part One is despite the heart of their pitching talent spending virtually all of 2017 disabled, in many cases recovering from major surgery and bottom line unable to pitch, the team and manager Mike Scioscia have pieced together a starting rotation composed of journeymen,
has-beens, never-weres and “really, him?” guys culled from the scrap heap of baseball, to sit, after 97 games, only three games out of a wild-card spot, even after losing Mike Trout for 45 games.
But there is also Good News Part Two, and that is the fact that two of the injured five starters, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney, plus similarly injured relieved Andrew Bailey, have all now embarked on rehab assignments. Heaney would appear to be the biggest long-shot of that group to make it to Anaheim this season, as he is just now only one year out from Tommy John surgery, and even with full recovery from the surgery, which may or may not yet be the case, the normal course of rehab is months, or at least weeks, and not just a few days. Bailey, recovering from shoulder soreness, has pitched in Triple-A now, and may be only a few days away from rejoining the Angels’ bullpen, but that is not where their problems lie, as what they desperately need are healthy, major-league quality starters. So what about Skaggs? Hopefully recovered from the oblique strain suffered during his own recovery from Tommy John Surgery, Skaggs is set to make a Triple-A start, and if all goes well, he too could be back up and in the Angels’ rotation in the next few days.
In the absence of real, major league starters, the Angels’ have miraculously remained in contention while depending on guys like Ricky Nolasco (4-10 in 19 starts) and Jesse Chavez (5-10 in 19 starts) to fill starting slots and eat innings. The Angels’ are where they are today due to yeoman work from a bullpen that itself seems to have weekly injuries and constant turnover, decent starts from converted reliever J.C. Ramirez (8-8 in 18 starts despite having had 108 major league appearances before this season, all of them in relief), and one developing potential star, in Alex Meyer (4-5 in 13 starts and acquired in the same trade last year that brought them Nolasco), who last night pitched the best game of his career, seven one-hit shutout innings against one of the game’s top offenses, the Washington Nationals.
One other pitcher plucked out of seemingly nowhere has shown promise in the rotation as of late, and that is former Oriole farmhand, Parker Bridwell. Bridwell has been ok to
excellent in four of his last five (of six total) starts, and for now, should be ranked as the team’s number three starter behind Meyer and Ramirez.
Can the Angels continue to contend with a team that features inconsistent offense but a solid bullpen, and a rotation of starters that most contenders would have in reserve in the high minors? That is anybody’s guess, but getting a couple of the walking wounded back and on major league mounds would be a major plus over the Angels’ last 65 games of the season, and perhaps into the post season.