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Heaney clears hurdle in return from sore elbow

Angels lefty throws off mound for first time since being shut down
March 26, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney pitched off a mound on Monday for the first time since he was shut down earlier this month with left elbow inflammation. Heaney, who’s expected to begin the season on the injured list, said he felt good after throwing 20 pitches in a light

ANAHEIM -- Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney pitched off a mound on Monday for the first time since he was shut down earlier this month with left elbow inflammation.

Heaney, who’s expected to begin the season on the injured list, said he felt good after throwing 20 pitches in a light bullpen session. The effort level was consistent with how he would exert himself in a bullpen between regular starts.

He’s scheduled to pitch off a mound again on Wednesday, this time throwing an “up-down," simulating a multiple-inning game situation.

“That will be a good test for kind of getting hot, cooling off a bit, then getting hot again,” Heaney said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

It remains to be seen when Heaney will be ready for game action. Neither Heaney nor manager Brad Ausmus would set a timetable for his return, but Ausmus said the Angels don’t expect it to be too long. Heaney still has to progress to facing live hitters and build up his pitch count.

“I know it’s cliche, but I genuinely am taking it one day at a time,” Heaney said. “I’ve got to clear each little hurdle. It’s really mentally probably not good for me to start trying to focus too far ahead. So I’m here, and I’m just doing what they tell me.”

It’s an all-too-familiar process for the 27-year-old, who underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2016 and missed the start of 2018 with a bout of elbow inflammation.

“I [rehab] so much, that it is what it is. I wish it was something that wasn’t quite so routine for me, but it’s something I’ve kind of learned over time,” Heaney said. “Obviously we all want to come out here and be healthy and play well. It doesn’t always work out that way, so you have to be a professional when it’s not going well for you, so I just try to keep that attitude.”

Upton's Opening Day status unclear

Justin Upton remains day to day after spraining his left big toe in Sunday's Freeway Series opener at Angel Stadium. Ausmus said the outfielder was still sore and limping a little bit on Monday afternoon. His status for Opening Day is unclear.

"We're waiting for multiple opinions. We should know more by [Tuesday],” Ausmus said after Monday's 8-7 loss to the Dodgers at Angel Stadium. “He's not moving real good right now, so we'll see what they say."

Upton missed much of Spring Training with right knee tendinitis and only returned to game action last week. He sustained the toe injury attempting to brace himself against the outfield wall as he chased down an RBI double by Max Muncy in the first inning.

Calhoun in regular-season form

Kole Calhoun endured a down year in 2018, but the veteran outfielder appears to be rounding back into form with a strong spring showing. In his first trip to the plate on Monday, Calhoun homered, taking the first pitch he saw from Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda deep for a 413-foot shot to left-center field. He followed that up with a double in his second at-bat and lifted his spring batting average to .333.

"I just want to feel good going into Opening Day," Calhoun said. "We've been working here for six weeks now, trying to get closer and closer to what you're going to go into the season with. Mechanically, I feel pretty good right now."

Both of Calhoun's hits registered as barrels, which Statcast defines as batted balls with a combination of exit velocity and launch angle that typically result in an extra-base hit.

"I think he's in a real good spot, from an offensive perspective both mechanically and mentally,” Ausmus said. “He went through those early struggles last season where frankly he was lost, but he's the opposite of that right now. Not only does he feel good, but he feels like he knows where every part of his swing is."

Calhoun also added an outfield assist when he cut down the Dodgers' Joc Pederson as he tried to stretch a single into a double in the fifth inning.

"I was playing over, and I know Joc's aggressive," Calhoun said. "It was going to be close and I figured he was probably going, made a good throw and got him. It was just kind of a hustle play. Good baseball play all around."

Bullpen day

The Angels went with a bullpen day on Monday, using nine relievers, including closer Cody Allen, who allowed a pair of runs on two hits and a walk and struck out a batter. Right-hander Noe Ramirez, who started, Ty Buttrey, Luis Garcia, Cam Bedrosian and Justin Anderson each pitched a scoreless inning.

Luke Bard was tagged with the loss after yielding four runs in the seventh. He retired the first batter he faced, Austin Barnes, on a fly out to left, but then gave up a double, struck a batter and issued two walks, including one with the bases loaded.

Bard is one of nine relievers in camp competing for eight spots on the Opening Day roster. He's also one of the few bullpen arms -- along with Anderson and Buttrey -- with Minor League options, making him a candidate to be sent down before Thursday's regular-season opener.

Worth noting

• First baseman Matt Thaiss, the Angels' No. 8 prospect, was named the recipient of the Fred Haney Award for most outstanding Angels rookie in Spring Training on Monday. Thaiss hit .333/.366/.615 (13-for-39) with four doubles, two triples, one home run and nine RBIs in 18 exhibition games.

• The Angels acquired right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for left-hander Williams Jerez on Monday.

Tyler Skaggs pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a Minor League exhibition on Monday. He allowed just one hit and struck out seven batters with no walks. Skaggs is expected to make his season debut on Sunday in Oakland.

• With all the pitching changes, Monday’s contest lasted 3 hours and 58 minutes. Left fielder Bo Way and shortstop Wilfredo Tovar went the distance, playing all nine innings.

“We’re at that point in Spring Training where they've got to be able to play nine anyways,” Ausmus said. “Even though it was a long nine.”

Up next

The Angels wrap their exhibition slate by traveling north up Interstate 5 to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers at 7:10 p.m. PT. Right-hander Jaime Barria will start opposite Dodgers southpaw Julio Urias. The game will be available for free on MLB.TV and MLB Network.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com.