Los Angeles Angels pitchers closing in on returning

By Mitch Quesada
July 22, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher C.J. Wilson (33) pitches the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
July 22, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher C.J. Wilson (33) pitches the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Los Angeles Angels are red-hot right now and may have some key members of their pitching staff back by next month.

The Los Angeles Angels are a puzzling team.

They started the season with pundits (and fans) unable to agree on what to make of the team. Sure, they have the best player in baseball, had just traded for the game’s best defensive shortstop, and had an ace that was ready to breakthrough this year.

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Some thought they would make the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, others thought a .500 record wasn’t attainable.

The Angels started the year losing four of their first five games, then won four straight against division rivals, then got swept by a Minnesota Twins team that was winless before the Halos came to town.

Then, everyone started getting hurt. And by everyone, I mean everyone. 

First, it was C.J. Wilson, whose shoulder inflammation put him on the DL before the season started. Then Andrew Heaney hurt the flexor muscle in his throwing arm in his first start of the season. Then Huston Street strained his oblique and then Craig Gentry, the Angels platoon man in left field, suffered a lumbar strain in his spine.

Then April ended.

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Yes, those injuries were just in April. But the injury gods which decided to curse a team that was on the playoff bubble to begin with decided to throw some more curveballs at them in May.

In this order, and in a span of 16 days, Garrett Richards (torn elbow ligament), Andrelton Simmons (torn thumb ligament), Cliff Pennington (hamstring strain), Cory Rasmus (groin strain), Daniel Nava (groin strain), and Geovany Soto (torn meniscus) all found themselves hexed and sent to the disabled list.

The injuries made it somewhat forgiving to watch the team stumble to a 13-21 start, in which they were eight games back in the West and in last place in their division as recently as May 12.

Then the team decided to confuse us even more.

They’ve been on a tear, utilizing guys that probably thought they had no chance of playing at the Major League level this early in the season — guys like Rafael Ortega and Gregorio Petit. They traded for Jhoulys Chacin who was instantly put into the starting rotation and been decent.

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They’ve won six of their last eight games, took three of four from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Freeway Series, improved to 19-23, and moved into third place in the West.

And to make matters better, a few of their pitchers are on their way back from the island of the DL, which includes 10 Angels, if you’re keeping count.

Wilson St., or rather, Wilson and Street

C.J. Wilson and Huston Street appear to be the closest to re-joining the Halos.

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  • Wilson pitched a simulated game on Monday at Dodger Stadium, then threw another at Angel Stadium on Friday.

    The latter included 49 pitches, which Wilson said “is good.”

    “Going forward, I feel like I’ll be able to ramp up pretty fast because of my conditioning and stuff,” he told MLB.com’s Fabian Ardaya. “Being able to throw 50 pitches effectively on three days’ rest, twice, is good. Stuff-wise, we’re good.”

    Wilson will be eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on June 2, nearly 10 months after he last pitched with the Angels.

    He will likely start pitching with the team’s Single-A Inland Empire 66ers.

    Street was also busy on Friday, throwing a bullpen session, two days removed from the 25-pitch session he threw earlier this week.

    On Monday, when the team is in Texas, he is scheduled to throw against live hitters, with another bullpen session coming Tuesday and a simulated game on Thursday.

    MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez said he is targeting an early June return as well.

    Skaggs cleared to restart rehab

    After being shutdown for almost a month due to tendinitis in his biceps, Tyler Skaggs was given the go ahead to restart his rehab in attempt to comeback from his 2014 Tommy John surgery.

    According to MLB.com‘s Alden Gonzalez, Skaggs threw from a distance of 60 feet Monday and then 90 feet on Tuesday, and could be ready to start throwing some bullpen sessions next week.

    There is still no timetable for his return, although it is encouraging that he is starting up the rehab process again.  The earliest Skaggs could conceivably return is late June or early July and he will have to throw a couple of simulated games if the bullpen sessions go well next week.  If all goes well, he could start a minor league rehab assignment by mid-to-late June.

    Skaggs is officially on the Triple-A Salt Lake City Bees roster, but was put on the 7-day disabled list on May 1 and has yet to be activated, although he is eligible to be.

    ‘The Freak’ debut less than a month away

    Tim Lincecum, with whom the Angels finalized a one-year deal with on Thursday, is about a month away from making his Halos debut, general manager Billy Eppler told MLB.com’s Fabian Ardaya:

    In the meantime, “The Freak” will be getting his arm ready against Minor League competition.

    Lincecum is scheduled to throw a 75-100 pitch simulated game on Monday to decide which affiliate he will be assigned.

    That being said, by the middle of June, the Angels could have Wilson and Lincecum in the rotation with Street at the back end of the bullpen once again.

    Which means someone is going to get the boot, because the rotation already has Hector Santiago, Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano and Chacin.

    Wilson will almost certainly replace the struggling Shoemaker, but it will be interesting to see who’s spot Lincecum takes.

    We will find out in just a few weeks, and as far as the Angels are concerned, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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