LA Angels made trades to bolster team, but the return of Garrett Richards and Yunel Escobar just as important.

By David Rice
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 09: Garrett Richards
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 09: Garrett Richards /
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The LA Angels have been like a MASH unit this season with all the injuries they have endured so far.  With many of these players finally getting healthy their returns have bolstered the team. Garrett Richards &Yunel Escobar could be next.

For the LA Angels the injury to hopeful staff ace Garrett Richards 4.2 innings into his first start of the season was a bad omen for 2017.  Unlike in 2016 when the club lost four pitchers to arm injuries and getting none of them back, the walking wounded have started to return just in the nick of time.

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Earlier in the month starters Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney both made their way back to Anaheim.  Although both have struggled thus far since their return, they are both showing signs of returning to form.  Now we can add Garrett Richards name to the list of starting pitchers returning to Anaheim.

Richards has been rehabbing over the last month and has worked his way back into shape and made his first rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake City on Wednesday going two innings allowing five hits and no runs while striking out two batters.  Richards threw a total of 40 pitches, 26 of which were strikes in the two inning outing.

According to multiple sources including Angels beat writer for the LA Times Pedro Moura, the Angels plan to activate Richards this weekend and have him start possibly as early as Monday night in Oakland.  Many thought the Angels would give Richards one more rehab start to stretch him out a little more, but that may not be the case.

If Richards could return to form he could be the answer to an important question.  If the Angels do win a wild-card spot who do they start in a one game winner take all situation. Until Richards looked like he might be able to get back the answer could have been one of three pitchers, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, or Parker Bridwell.  All have the ability to be lights out and two of them, Heaney and Skaggs are lefties which could handcuff the Yankees or Twins or whoever wins the other wild-card spot.

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If Richards can show that his arm is sound the Angels would love to have his presence on the mound although he has no post-season experience. Ricky Nolasco is the only Angels starter to pitch in the post-season going four innings against the Cardinals in the NLCS. Richards was injured in late August and missed the Angels Division Series in 2014 against the Kansas City Royals.

If Richards  does start for the Angels Monday he will probably be limited to 60 pitches with Jesse Chavez most likely coming into relieve him and bridge the gap to the back end of the Angels bullpen. No matter what it is encouraging news for the Angels to see Richards close to returning.

Another player who could further bolster the Angels line-up is third baseman Yunel Escobar who is trying to get back from a strained oblique muscle.  Escobar had a slight setback yesterday as he experienced some back stiffness during yesterday’s rehab start for the Angels’ Single-A affiliate the Inland Empire 66’ers.  Escobar played the last two night for the 66’ers, but he will be shutdown until his back pain subsides.

The Angels could still see Escobar return by late next week if all goes well.  In his stead Luis Valbuena has played very well over the last month hitting nine homers and driving in 24 runs in the past 35 games.  So either way the Angels will be in good shape.  Escobar is hitting .274 with seven homers and 31 RBIs so far this year.

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Escobar be a good bat to have off the bench or as a starter down the stretch.  We will have to see what happens over the next couple of days.  One move that has gone under the radar is the Angels have signed veteran reliever Fernando Salas to a minor league contract last week and he has been perfect so far in three outings in Salt Lake City.

Salas who was with the Angels for three season from 2014-2016  before being dealt to the Mets could be another experienced arm in the Angels bullpen down the stretch.  Especially since the Angels have lost Andrew Bailey for the season and Bud Norris is also on the DL.

Next: Angels make second deal of the day acquiring Brandon Phillips

All in all the Angels are getting healthy at the right time and hopefully it will be a Red October this year in Anaheim.

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