Fans watching last night’s game held their collective breaths as Garrett Richards was carted off on a stretcher, suffering a knee injury in a victory against Boston.
Nothing official has been announced, but as we keep our fingers crossed and pray for an Angels in the Outfield-like miracle, it does beg the question and press an immediate concern… who do the Angels use as a substitute?
Let’s start with external options. There are only three starting pitchers who cleared revocable waivers thus far who haven’t already been traded: Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers, Josh Beckett of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Jon Niese of the New York Mets.
Now a trade for Darvish obviously is not happening. Aside from Rangers being in the same division, not to mention some bad blood after Angels lured away both C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton in consecutive years via free agency, Angels simply wouldn’t have any pieces that they could afford to part with to acquire somebody of Darvish’s caliber.
Beckett might actually be out for the rest of the season. And if he does make a return, Dodgers would unquestionably have their own use for him in their pennant race, as he has pitched marvelously for them when healthy this year.
By default, Niese is the most ideal (or least implausible) replacement of the three. Currently with a 3.50 ERA, he is seen as a consistent mid-rotation pitcher and is currently playing for a team with a losing record. But given the prospects they forfeited for a closer (albeit an excellent one) in Huston Street, one could only wonder what the Angels would give up to acquire a solid starter with a team-friendly contract in Niese, especially considering the Mets have no reason to rush a deal.
It is possible that more pitchers will be placed on trade waivers before the end of the month (here’s hoping for a reunion with Bartolo Colon), but for the time being, the trade options aren’t looking very realistic. This takes us to the internal options, which make for much more practical scenarios.
When Richards went down during the top of the second inning, Cory Rasmus wore the hero’s cape in the long relief role, pitching 2.1 innings and allowing a single run while picking up the win for the club. That being said, Rasmus has never started a game in the big leagues. In fact, the last game he started was in A-Advanced ball in 2011. While it would make for a riveting story, it’s hard to see them converting him into a starter at this point.
Michael Roth is currently a starting pitcher for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers and has experience in the big leagues, including one start in his 15 games (20 innings, 16 earned runs) with the Angels last year, to go with his two long relief appearances this year (6.2 innings, four earned runs). His brief stint in the majors hasn’t been dazzling, but he has shown vast improvement and growth in the minors with a 2.82 ERA in 20 starts compared to last year’s 3.62 in 23 starts.
Speaking of Double-A pitchers, Drew Rucinski has also been faring well with a 3.07 ERA in 24 starts. Like Roth, his limited experience in the majors didn’t look too promising, giving up two runs in his only inning pitched for the Angels before getting optioned back down.
Needless to say, any minor league pitcher who gets called up would be getting thrown into the fire and would be given a nearly insurmountable responsibility, but given the success story that is Matt Shoemaker, I’ve learned to stay open-minded.
Last but not least, Angels do have MLB veterans in their Triple-A ball club who have been waiting to reemerge in the big leagues, and our Editor Jose Serrano and I believe this would, on the surface, appear to be the most likely route the Angels might take. Wade LeBlanc has a 4.00 ERA in 20 starts for the Salt Lake Bees, and the recently signed 15-year veteran Randy Wolf is putting up a 4.94 ERA in five starts.
The numbers aren’t breathtaking, but it’s worth noting that the Pacific Coast League is notoriously hitter-friendly, where even Richards himself accrued a 4.21 ERA in 14 starts back in 2012; the only time he spent there before getting called up permanently.
The Angels have their work cut out for them, but having any options is much better than having none at all.