The injury bug has hit the Los Angeles Angels pitching staff hard this season, but the team took its biggest blow of the year with news that broke Friday morning.
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Garrett Richards, the team’s ace who was 1-3 with a 2.34 ERA over six starts this year, was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm and is expected to require Tommy John surgery. The news came a day after the Angels scratched Richards from Friday night’s start due to what the team called “fatigue” and “dehydration”.
If Richards has the surgery performed he will miss the rest of this season and possibly the first half of 2017.
Just a few days ago, in what ended up being Richards’ final start of the season, the 27-year-old pitched only four innings and allowed one earned run in a no-decision against the Texas Rangers. He threw 79 pitches before getting the hook and was again diagnosed as “fatigued” but now questions have been raised if his arm injury occurred during that start.
But a bigger question hurts to think of, and even hurts me to type: Are the Angels postseason hopes officially over?
They were slim when the season started but now the Angels’ starting rotation, which ranks 17th in the Bigs with a 4.45 ERA, is going to have to rely on arms in Triple-A Salt Lake to provide life to a team that has stumbled to a 13-15 record, 4.0 games behind the Mariners in the West.
When the season started, there was excitement surrounding the Halos pitching staff because there seemed to be so many options for the team.
But now, Richards joins C.J. Wilson, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Skaggs on the long-term injury report. The prior two might not be available until mid-June at the earliest and Skaggs is still recovering from a Tommy John surgery of his own.
Plus, the Angels have a few pitchers who are healthy but haven’t performed up to expectations.
Matt Shoemaker is 1-4 with a 9.15 ERA and has only struck out 16 in five starts. Jered Weaver has an attractive 3-1 record but his ERA is at 5.40 and he’s allowed a team-high 37 hits in 28.1 innings pitched.
That being said, the new “ace” in the rotation becomes Hector Santiago, who has pitched a team-high 37.2 innings and holds a 2-1 record with a 3.58 ERA but is tied for the team’s most home runs allowed with six.
Multiple reports expect Nick Tropeano (1-1, 3.42 ERA) and Nate Smith (2-1, 3.79 ERA in six Triple-A starts) to join the rotation and reliever Cory Rasmus will at least be making a spot start Friday night in place of Richards.
That’s the short-term solution but where do the Angels go from here?
Since their farm system is depleted, they probably won’t be able to trade for any big-name pitchers before the deadline. And they seem to be very interested in Tim Lincecum, who hasn’t really proven himself on the mound the past few seasons.
Angels’ fans are just going to have to wait it out, but I don’t see the team figuring it all out by the time the season ends since they couldn’t figure anything out while they were healthy.
Buried once again in a division that has proven to be ultra-competitive, the Angels playoff hopes are all but gone.
They simply don’t have the depth to compete against teams like the Rangers and Mariners who do.
They will still be a fun team to watch, as the core’s hitting has finally awoken (just ask Mike Trout), but the offense isn’t talented enough to win games in which starting pitchers give up four or five runs every night.
Unless Shoemaker and Weaver figure everything out and Wilson and Heaney come back and save the staff, I don’t see the Triple-A arms coming in and carrying the team into the postseason, it’s simply too much to ask for them.
It’s sad to say that the Angels season might be over before it’s really gotten started.