The LA Angels have had many players who have had to do rehab assignments this season, many of them have done it close to home in San Bernardino (30 miles from Anaheim) for the Inland Empire 66ers.
On Saturday night the LA Angels sent two relievers to Inland Empire in hopes of getting them one step closer to coming back to Anaheim. Noe Ramirez who has been on the IL for about two weeks with a viral infection that caused him to lose 11 pounds in a four-day period. Keynan Middleton on the otherhand is trying to take the final step to getting back to the majors after having Tommy John surgery last May.
Middleton was in San Bernardino just one month ago rehabbing, but unfortunately for him he had a setback while in Triple-A Salt Lake City as Middleton felt some pain in his right elbow. He was diagnosed with mild ulnar neuritis which caused him to be shut down for a couple of weeks. But he has now worked his way back to an injury rehab stint for the 66ers Saturday night.
The Angels are hoping to get both Ramirez and Middleton back in the bullpen which would definitely bolster an already solid, but overworked bullpen. So on Saturday night Noe Ramirez took the mound in the first inning for the 66ers and pitched a scoreless inning allowing only one walk. Ramirez made 12 pitches with seven being strikes and five balls. His fastball topped out at 87 miles per hour and his change-up was between 80 and 82 and he also had a nice-biting slider between 74 and 77 MPH.
Overall Ramirez was happy with his outing on Saturday.
“It’s more of a whole body thing right now. I’m a little rusty, just trying to get back into the groove. Overall I felt pretty good,” Ramirez said. “I had a stomach virus that kicked my butt. Usually it takes a couple of days for it to leave, but this one was just killer man. It hurt me pretty good. Losing 11 pounds in four days is a lot especially for me because I don’t weigh very much to begin with. I’m just trying to get my weight back and get my strength back.”
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Ramirez was in the middle of appealing his 3-game suspension for hitting the Astros Jake Marisnick, in what was thought to be a retaliation for Marisnick taking out now former Angel catcher Jonathan Lucroy is a vicious home-plate collision. The Angels were getting set to play the Baltimore Orioles in a four-game series when Ramirez fell ill. It couldn’t have come at a worse time as the Angels got involved in a 16-inning affair with the Orioles and were down a pitcher with Ramirez out sick. The team was forced to use a starter, Griffin Canning, out of the bullpen which totally screwed up the Angels pitching staff for a week. Ramirez felt very bad about the entire situation.
“It’s kind of rough. I hated missing that game for our team as it really hurt us in that game. It was just really bad luck. I apologized to Griff Canning there for making him have to go out there out of the bullpen,” Ramirez said. “It sucks not being able to be out there with my guys. One day I would feel better, than the next date I would get a pain in my side and I couldn’t eat. It’s really been frustrating. It’s tough I didn’t expect to be out this long.”
Ramirez is said to probably make one more rehab appearance before returning to the Angels sometime during the upcoming homestand. We will just have to wait and see what happens. Ramirez is chomping at the bit to get back though and hopes it will be sooner rather than later.
“It’s been really tough watching us go through a rough patch here and not being able to help out. The fact we are not doing well makes it even more frustrating to be out,” Ramirez said. “You want to be out there with your tea during both the good times and the bad times and just grow with each other. It just adds onto my frustration.”
When Ramirez does make it back he will have to serve a three-game suspension for hitting Marisnick. While he declined to comment on his suspension, Ramirez did say that he believed the incident brought the team closer despite the recent slide.
“I was hoping this situation would be something we could rally around and come together. I think we did find some unity,” Ramirez said. “(Once the suspension is over) It will be good to get back out there. That’s where I have my most fun. It’s a place where I can go and escape everything that is happening outside the field. I’m looking forward to it and especially getting back with my guys.”
For Keynan Middleton his outing was not quite as clean as Ramirez’s was. Middleton made 19 pitches in the second inning with 10 pitches that were strikes. He walked two batters and also struck out two batters but was not able to make it through the full inning before reaching his pitch count of 20. Middleton’s fastball topped out at 95 MPH with his change-up was 85 MPH and his slider was his best pitch as it was very sharp reaching as high as 84 MPH. Here is a tweet courtesy of Jared Tims of Diamond Digest who caught some of Middleton in action while we were interview Noe Ramirez.
After the game Middleton, who was visibly frustrated not being able to get through his inning of work declined to speak to the media after his outing. Middleton will most likely make the at least three to four more appearances for the 66ers and possibly Triple-A Salt Lake before returning to the Angels.
Overall it was a night of promise for the Angels and the potential addition to its bullpen. Stay Tuned.