Tyler Skaggs making up for lost time with LA Angels

Jul 26, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs (45) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs (45) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

On July 31, 2014 LA Angels Tyler Skaggs was having one of his best starts of his pro career when he felt a pain in his left elbow.  Skaggs was forced out his start that night in Baltimore and was diagnosed the next day with a UCL tear in his elbow, meaning he would  have to undergo Tommy John Surgery.

It was hoped he would be back at the start of the LA Angels 2016 season, but that wasn’t in the cards for Skaggs

“Definitely wasn’t happy about it, but at the same time it seems to be a cool thing these days that Tommy John,” Skaggs said jokingly. “Once I got that out of the way and got through a minor setback. I’m just happy to get back.”

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Fast-forward to 2016 Spring Training. LA Angels Tyler Skaggs was looking good toward the end of the Cactus League schedule, but he wasn’t quite ready to go when the season started. So Skaggs was assigned to the Triple-A Salt Lake City Bees where he made two solid starts and was just about ready to make a third when his shoulder starting bothering him.  Skaggs’ rehab was shut down on May 1st due to left shoulder tendinitis.  So the young lefty acquired with Hector Santiago in a trade for Mark Trumbo in the Winter of 2014, was left to wait even longer to make his return to the mound for the Angels.

“It was hard, very hard as I had to go to Arizona as my shoulder wasn’t feeling very good,” said Skaggs about his setback. “I think it was just a stamina thing, I couldn’t get to 100 pitches, but now that I’m there, my arm is feeling good and I’m going to try to keep it rolling.”

The Angels and Skaggs took things slow and he built up his arm strength in hopes of making his return to Anaheim.  Finally Skaggs was given the go ahead to return to his rehab as he made a start for the Single-A Inland Empire 66’ers where he lasted 4.1 innings giving up five hits and one run while striking out five batters.  It wasn’t a perfect outing, but Skaggs was just happy to be back on track in his rehab.  Over the next month, Skaggs would make five starts for Salt Lake City again and would get stronger each time out. His last two outings for the Bees Skaggs pitched 12.2 innings allowing no runs and only two hits with 26 strikeouts.

So finally on July 26th, 2016 in Kansas City, Skaggs returned to the mound for the Angels almost two years after going down with the elbow injury.  The results were eye-popping as Skaggs pitched seven shutout innings allowing only three hits and striking out five batters to get his first victory since July 13, 2013 against Texas.  Five days later Skaggs pitched again this time at home against Boston and again he was stellar going 5.1 innings again allowing no runs and this time striking out eight batters in a no-decision.

"“It was huge, I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes, and let the outing be what it may and it ended up being a great outing and I was very, very happy with it,” Skaggs said in an interview I did with him early last week. “My outing on Sunday against Boston I feel like I was throwing the ball even better than I did against Kansas City. I have 10 or 11 starts left and I want to make the most of my opportunities and show these guys I’m back and I’m healthy and then I want to go into next season and show these guys what I can do."

Skaggs will take the mound today in Cleveland with the Angels in dire need of a victory as they are on a seven game losing streak. Hopefully he will be up to the challenge and will continue to get stronger with each outing.

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“Tyler has thrown the ball well since he has been back, he has been throwing the ball really since Spring Training, it was just getting him healthy and back pitching on a five day rotation,” Angels pitching coach Charles Nagy said. “We finally got him up here now and everything been really good for him so far. It took us a little longer than we had hoped, but now he’s back and he has no restrictions or limitations right now and he is going to finish the season strong.”

Jett Bandy who has caught Skaggs both in Triple-A and his last start against Seattle thinks that Skaggs is doing very well.

“That guy has worked so hard to get back to where he is now. It took a long time for him to get back, but  I saw him every day working his butt off to get back  to where he is now,” Said Bandy who has been the starting catcher most of the last month. “Tyler deserves everything he is getting right now, he is throwing the ball well and is a great guy and I just enjoyed having on our team.”

Tyler Skaggs has been one of the few bright spots on the Angels pitching staff this season, especially with three other pitchers on the shelf with  the same elbow injury Skaggs had. So what advice would Skaggs give to Nick Tropeano, Andrew Heaney, and Garrett Richards.

“Just take your time, when you’re ready, you’re ready, don’t rush back, you’re body will let you know when you’re ready,” Skaggs said. “Everyone is pretty young, you have a bright future ahead of you. It makes no sense in rushing back and getting hurt again.”

Here’s hoping Skaggs continues to get stronger each start and will be a key part of the Angels rotation for many years to come.