Los Angeles Angels Joe Smith looks good in rehab start.

The Los Angeles Angels hope to see Joe Smith back on the mound for them soon. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The Los Angeles Angels hope to see Joe Smith back on the mound for them soon. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Angels have populated their Single-A affiliate the Inland Empire 66’ers with a plethora of major league talent with numerous players doing rehab assignments.  There has been almost enough to field a full team as seven players from the Angels have donned Inland Empire jerseys this season. Sunday night was reliever Joe Smith‘s turn with Tyler Skaggs following him tonight.

The Los Angeles Angels are starting to get healthy again as four players Daniel Nava, Nick Tropeano, Andrelton Simmons, and Tim Lincecum have returned from injuries (although Tropeano was sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake after being activated last Friday).  Joe Smith should be back with the Angels soon, most likely by the end of the week.

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Smith pitched the first inning Sunday evening for the 66’ers against the Visalia Rawhide and had a one-two-three inning retiring the side on nine pitches, seven of which were strikes. He will be re-evaluated today to see how his arm feels the day after and then the Angels will decide how to proceed.

“My arm felt good tonight, I will see how it feels tomorrow which I’m sure it will feel good and go from there,” said Smith in an interview after his performance Sunday night.

Smith started the game for the 66’ers and got Rawhide’s Robelys Reyes to fly out left field.  Victor Reyes was next up and Smith made quick work of him too getting him to pop-up to second baseman Hutton Moyer.  The final batter Smith faced was Domingo Leyba who Smith caught looking with a nice side-armed curve ball one of his staple pitches and with that Smith was done.

“I thought he looked really good, he definitely commands the ball pretty well,” Angels top prospect catcher Taylor Ward said in an interview after catching Smith Sunday night. “He threw every pitch he had his four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, his change-up and his curve ball.  We got a strike out on his curve ball and a good swing and a miss on his change-up.  We talked in the dugout and he said his curve ball could be better even though he got a strikeout with it.  But I thought he looked good as I caught him in the Spring and it was nice and easy to get back with him and catch him again.  It’s great to catch all these guys that come through here.”

When asked if it was any more difficult to catch Smith since he throws side-armed Ward had this to say.

“Sometimes certain pitches can given you trouble, you have to stay in there and lock in a little more,” Ward said. “Other than that (side-armers) they are like any other guy.  Especially a guy like Joe as he commands the ball so well it makes it pretty easy.”

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The 66’ers then turned to an impressive right-hander Justin Anderson who shut the Rawhide down for six innings giving up six hits and only one run while striking out five to get his fourth win of the season.

With 66’ers trailing 1-0 going into the bottom of the third, they rallied scoring two runs the first one on a RBI-Single by one of the Angels top prospects David Fletcher that drove in Ayendy Perez to tie the game at one.  Later in the inning Wade Wass would come through with an RBI-Single driving in Hutton Moyer (Jamie Moyer‘s son) to give the 66’ers a 2-1 lead.

Two innings later Moyer would drive in the third run of the game for the 66’ers with an RBI-Single scoring California League All-Star left fielder Tim Arakawa to extend the lead to 3-1.  The 66’ers would break the game open a little in the bottom of the sixth as Fletcher again would come through with a two-out two-run single to right that scored Zach Houchins and Ayendy Perez Perez to make it a 5-1 game.

“We just wanted to keep it going as we have played well in the last couple of games,” Said Fletcher who recently came off the DL. “It feels good anytime you can come back from an injury and contribute to help the team win.”

When asked about the plethora of Angels who have played for the 66’ers in recent weeks Fletcher has enjoyed watching them play.

“It’s really cool when they come through, they are all good guys and have stuff to teach you,” Fletcher said. “Just to watch the way they go about their business you can learn from them and that’s pretty cool.”

In the eighth inning the 66’ers got in a little bit of trouble as right-hander Ronnie Muck got into a jam walking the bases loaded on 13 pitches (only 1 strike), but left-hander Kevin Grendell came in and saved the day.  Grendell struck out three straight batters on only 15 pitches (13 strikes) to squash the Visalia rally.  Grendell’s fastball topped out at 93 and the Rawhide hitters could not seem to catch up with it.

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Keynan Middleton came in and pitched a flawless 9th inning retiring the side in order with one strike out to end the game with the 66’ers winning 5-1.  The 66’ers took three of four games from the first-half champion Visalia Rawhide and will now go on the rode for seven games.  The first three will be in Lake Elsinore against the Storm and then they will travel to High Desert to play the Mavericks in a four-game series over next weekend.

In tonight’s game against Lake Elsinore Tyler Skaggs will make his first appearance in a live game since being shut down in late April with shoulder tightness.  Skaggs who had Tommy John surgery in late 2014 has not pitched in the majors since June of 2014.  Skaggs looked on track to be ready to return to the Angels in early May, before being scratched from what would have probably been his final rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake City.  He resumed throwing in early June and after three bullpen sessions is now ready to return to the mound for the 66’ers tonight.

Taylor Ward is excited to catch Skaggs tonight in his first game back.

“I can’t wait to catch him tonight. I caught Skaggs in instructs (instructional league) an 80 pitch bullpen that he threw and he did very well, Ward said. “Hopefully he comes out tonight and does well and gives us a few good innings and then he is back up there.  That’s all you can ask for these guys down here to help us out. The hope for the best for them moving back up and getting back into the starting rotation or bullpen.”

As for the experience Ward has gained catching a number of major league pitchers this season he said. “Definitely catching these guys down here then hopefully seeing them in a couple of years will help me,” Ward said. “Especially it makes it much easier for us and are already building a relationship for the future.”

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Stay tuned to Halo Hangout on twitter for inning by inning updates of Tyler Skaggs start live from Lake Elsinore.  Game time 6 p.m.