LA Angels News

LA Angels: When will injured players make their 2019 returns?

By Vincent Page
ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim takes batting practice prior to the MLB game at Angel Stadium on September 10, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim takes batting practice prior to the MLB game at Angel Stadium on September 10, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /
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As the story goes for the LA Angels, they will be heading to Spring Training in less than two weeks with a handful of injured players.

However, the only question now for the LA Angels is when these players will be ready to contribute in 2019. While the team is generally healthy, they will be missing a few key contributors as the season begins.

The first and most obvious is Shohei Ohtani, who underwent Tommy John (TJ) surgery late last year. While doctors have already said Ohtani will not pitch until 2020, his hitting is going to be a big factor in the Angels’ pursuit of the postseason.

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Ohtani is unlike the case of Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager, who underwent TJ early in the 2018 season. Seager plays the field, and Ohtani will serve strictly as a designated hitter this season. So while position players often take nine months to return from the injury, Ohtani’s recovery as a hitter is accelerated. Opening Day seems to be a stretch for a return, but having Ohtani back early in the season is still the belief throughout the Angels’ organization.

Keynan Middleton and JC Ramirez are two other pitchers who underwent TJ early on in 2018. Ramirez who proved to be a valuable starting pitcher in 2017, could end up being a middle-of-the-rotation arm for the Angels once he returns. Ramirez tried to avoid TJ surgery, but after just two starts, it became obvious his condition worsened.

“They showed me the difference [in the tear] between last year and this year,” Ramirez told Avery Yang of MLB.com last April, “It was way worse. It was a lot more of a tear than before.”

With the original rehab date for Ramirez being 12-18 months, having him in the first half of the season seems unlikely. However, a return in the second half of 2019 seems likely, barring setbacks.

In Middleton’s case, he seems to be progressing at a more rapid pace. After going under the knife in May last year, it doesn’t appear to be out of the question that Middleton returns to Anaheim over the summer, rather than in late 2019. The Angels signed Cody Allen as an insurance closer for this season, but Middleton is still the best relief pitcher in the organization, and the duo could prove to be a deadly combination in the eighth and ninth innings when Middleton returns.

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Outside of those three, Alex Meyer is a name to watch. He resigned with the Angels after being released early in the offseason. He has spent the better part of two years rehabbing from shoulder surgery, but is on schedule to resume throwing in mid-February, right in time for Spring Training. If healthy, he brings high potential to the Halos, as he was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball before injuries derailed his career.

If 2019 is truly going to be the year the Angels get back to the playoffs, they need their injured players to come back to the diamond and be of value.

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