SEATTLE -- Andrew Heaney's progression will be halted 7-10 days after a CT scan that the left-hander underwent on Monday revealed “chronic changes” in his pitching elbow. Heaney will receive a cortisone injection and will be cleared to resume his throwing program, where he had reached a 40-pitch count before the setback, in a little more than a week.
The “chronic” aspect of the diagnosis reveals normal changes to the pitching elbow with wear and tear, general manager Billy Eppler said Monday at T-Mobile Park, where the Angels opened a two-game series with the Mariners.
“Obviously, the news that you want to hear is that your pitcher is healthy and is going to begin a throwing progression, and he's going to begin a throwing progression in seven days,” general manager Billy Eppler said. “It's better than a different outcome.”
Heaney, who entered Spring Training competing with Tyler Skaggs to be the Angels’ Opening Day starter, began the season on the injured list for the second straight year with elbow inflammation, a recurring issue that surfaced during his first of two Cactus League starts. Monday’s evaluation was a result of Heaney experiencing a setback during a side session last week.
Eppler likened Heaney’s symptoms to those the left-hander experienced last year, after which Heaney returned to lead the team with 30 starts and provide stability to an attrition-riddled rotation. Heaney posted a 4.15 ERA and struck out 180 over 180 innings, well above his previous career high of 137 1/3 in the Minors in 2014.
Heaney last pitched in a game on March 8, and on the mound last Monday. Eppler estimated that Heaney won’t need to start his throwing program anew, but he did suggest the lefty could regress from the 40-pitch count mark he was at before the setback. Throwing programs to build strength for a Major League workload are typically six weeks in Spring Training.
In the interim, right-hander Felix Pena has occupied Heaney’s rotation spot. Pena, who proved to be a serviceable starter down the stretch last year with a 3.49 ERA over 49 innings in his final eight outings, gave up four earned runs over 3 2/3 innings during Saturday’s 4-2 loss in Oakland.
For a club that weathered drastic injuries to its rotation last season, the Angels believe they’ve positioned themselves better for ’19. They signed free agents Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, and last Tuesday, traded for Chris Stratton -- Monday’s starter in Seattle -- from the Giants. And it’s conceivable that touted prospects Griffin Canning (the club’s No. 2, per MLB Pipeline) and Jose Suarez (No. 5) could be rotational pieces before season’s end.
“We made sure we had the inventory prepared for 162 games,” Eppler said. “As of right now, we haven't chiseled away at that depth, but we definitely want to get Andrew back into the fold as soon as it's reasonable to do so.”
After a scheduled off-day on Sunday, Shohei Ohtani resumed his rehab on Monday by taking batting practice on the field, running off the bases and playing catch. The next step toward a May return, which he remains on track for, would be facing live pitching, which the club has not yet scheduled.
Manager Brad Ausmus said Monday that the club has not determined if Ohtani -- who underwent Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1 -- will go on a Minor League rehab assignment. The two-way star will exclusively be a hitter in 2019, though Ohtani will continue throwing three times per week.
Cahill will look to rebound from an Opening Day start and Angels debut in which he surrendered two homers, a triple and a double that led to four runs over six innings. On Tuesday he will pitch opposite Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales, who already has two starts under his belt having started the first game of the season-opening Japan Series, and the Mariners’ home-opening win against the Red Sox on Thursday.