The Los Angeles Angels’ pitching staff has been expunged by injuries in the first month of the season. Further destruction came down on Friday when it was announced that right-handed pitcher Garrett Richards has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will undergo Tommy John surgery. Left-hander Andrew Heaney has UCL damage, too, though he is hoping to avoid reconstructive surgery.
Richards was originally slated to get the start in Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, but he was scratched on Thursday after an examination revealed dehydration and fatigue — the same symptoms that caused him to prematurely exit his previous start.
The same exam revealed a torn UCL, one that will prompt surgery for Richards and sideline him for the remainder of this year and a chunk of next season.
Richards has made six starts this season and logged 34.2 innings of work. During the same span, the righty has managed a 2.34 earned run average and 34 strikeouts.
For the time being, relief pitcher Javy Guerra will take Richards’s spot on the 25-man roster. Guerra was called up on Friday afternoon. It’s anticipated that a starting pitcher will be called up early next week.
Heaney started the second game of the season for the Angels and experienced some tightness in his forearm that landed him on the disabled list less than a day later after an MRI revealed a strained flexor muscle.
Recovery was anticipated to be quick, given the initial tests. Heaney was playing catch less than two weeks after landing on the DL. Nonetheless, during his second round of catch, Heaney again felt discomfort. On April 30, the Angels announced that Heaney would receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow, which set Heaney back from any major-league action for at least six weeks, not including the minor-league rehab assignment he’ll eventually receive.
Heaney hopes to avoid Tommy John surgery by rehabbing rather than opting for the procedure just yet. Rehab can work for an injured pitcher on some occasions, but it’s uncertain if this is one of those uncommon instances.
The Angels had plans of working with a four-man rotation until about the middle of May, one that included Richards, Hector Santiago, Jered Weaver, and Nick Tropeano after optioning Matt Shoemaker to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees due to his poor performance (a 9.15 ERA) in April.
Now, it seems likely Shoemaker will be called back up. Lefty Nate Smith, who has adjusted well to Triple-A thus far, is a candidate for a promotion. Also, keep in mind Cory Rasmus, who will be toeing the rubber in place of Richards on Friday. Though he is primarily a relief pitcher, an impressive start or two may earn him a place in the loop of starters.