TEMPE — At one point in the middle of the 2017 season, the Los Angeles Angels had a starting rotation of Parker Bridwell, Troy Scribner, Jesse Chavez, Ricky Nolasco and J.C. Ramirez.
Only one of those men — Ramirez — is projected to be in the 2018 starting rotation.
The Angels were ravaged by injuries throughout 2017. This season, they’ll be moving to a six-man starting rotation with the addition of two-way player Shohei Ohtani. Planned to join Ohtani in the rotation will be pitchers the Angels hoped to have together last year — Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker and Ramirez.
“Going into this year, we’re healthy,” Shoemaker said. “Knock on wood, we want to stay that way and keep pushing each other.”
The 2017 season was a tough one for Angels pitchers. Richards left his first start with nerve irritation in his right bicep. He also had a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in 2016, forcing him to miss the majority of the season. Richards has only pitched six games in each of the past two seasons.
Heaney missed the majority of 2017 after he underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2016. He pitched at the end of last season, with five starts combined in August and September.
Skaggs was sidelined for months with an oblique strain, and he had Tommy John surgery in 2014.
Shoemaker had surgery performed on his right forearm to repair a nerve. He also missed time in 2016 after he was hit in the head by a line drive.
Basically, the Angels lost the entirety of their pitching staff in 2017. Despite that, the squad managed to go 80-82, good enough for second in the American League West.
Although the Angels starting rotation spent the majority of the last calendar injured, they’re looking forward to a fresh season where they’ll finally get a chance to work alongside each other toward the same goal — a playoff berth.
“It sucked (being injured),” Richards said. “We all went through it and helped each other through the ups and downs of being injured. I think we’re tighter because of it. We’re all excited to be healthy.”
“If we all stay healthy, the sky is the limit for us,” Skaggs said.
It’s never good to be injured, much less for an entire pitching staff to go down for almost an entire season, but the Angels pitching staff found a silver lining in knowing the guy next to him was going through the same process of surgery and rehab.
Alex Meyer, another Angels pitcher who will miss the entire 2018 season after shoulder surgery, said he’s had support from his teammates.
“I’ve definitely talked with Heaney,” Meyer said. “He went through it last year, and he’s given me some info on how to deal with being injured.”
One of those tips Heaney gave him was to never stop improving, even if you can’t physically play baseball. There are always ways to get better.
“When I’m on the bench I try and learn and get better in any way that I can,” Meyer said. “I try to see what guys are doing when they’re on a good run. When someone is struggling, I try to help them out.”
Another way the pitcher staff will look to help each other out is through momentum and friendly competition. Each player wants their teammate to have the best possible game they can have, but the inherent competitiveness of a professional athlete drives them to try and one-up the last person to pitch.
“If someone goes out and throws seven shutout innings, I want to go out and throw seven or eight shutout innings,” Shoemaker said. “We want to build off each other, and there’s competition that way.”
Shoemaker then went on to echo a sentiment similar to that of Skaggs.
“When we feed off each other’s energy, that’s when the sky is the limit.”