Heaney gets good news after MRI on elbow

Angels starter says doctors told him ulnar collateral ligament is healthy

April 8th, 2016

ANAHEIM -- Andrew Heaney had an MRI on Wednesday morning and had only one question: "How's my ligament?"

Doctors told Heaney that his ulnar collateral ligament, the one that would require season-ending Tommy John surgery if torn, remained "fat and healthy," and Heaney felt a lot better. There's no telling when he'll return from the flexor muscle strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, but the 24-year-old left-hander feels confident he won't go under the knife.

"I saw the MRI for myself," Heaney said Thursday, an elbow sleeve covering most of his tender left forearm. "Obviously I'm not a doctor, but the way they explained it to me, it looked perfectly sound and healthy."

The Angels will give Heaney at least a couple of weeks off, then determine when he can resume throwing.

In the meantime, they called up Nick Tropeano from Triple-A Salt Lake. Tropeano, beaten out by Matt Shoemaker for the fifth spot of the Angels' rotation this spring, is lined up to start Monday's series opener from Oakland if he isn't needed for emergency relief before then. Jered Weaver, who completed a simulated game Tuesday, is locked in for Sunday's series finale against the Rangers.

Heaney began to feel pain in his left forearm midway through the second inning of his Tuesday start against the Cubs, moments after a nosebleed prompted the Angels' training staff to lodge gauze into his left nostril.

It wasn't pain, just discomfort. And Heaney never gave much thought to coming out of the game.

He completed six frames, striking out seven, walking none and getting burned only by a four-run third inning. But his velocity dropped, going from an average of 93.4 mph in the first to 91.7 in the second, 90.7 in the third and, ultimately, 89.7 in the sixth.

The Angels kept asking Heaney if he was OK.

"I'm fine," he would tell them.

"It wasn't until afterward that they had said my velo had gone down," Heaney recalled. "So that's why they were concerned. That's kind of when I was like, 'OK, maybe it's worse than I thought.' That's when I said something."

Tyler Skaggs could be ready to face Major League hitters before the end of April, but he's slated to pitch only four innings for Triple-A Salt Lake on Sunday and still has a ways to go in his return from Tommy John surgery. C.J Wilson, dealing with shoulder tendinitis, isn't even playing catch.

Tropeano will be a part of the rotation for a while.

"You don't want to see anyone get injured, especially a friend or a teammate," Tropeano said. "I'm here just to contribute, help the team win."

Heaney emerged as a rookie last season, posting a 3.49 ERA in 18 starts after coming up to the Major Leagues in late June. The Angels were counting on him to be a big part of their rotation all year.

"It sucks," Heaney said. "It sucks. I felt so good in spring, felt like I was going to be relied upon. It's not like, 'Hey, rookie, give us what you've got.' It's like, 'OK, we need you to pitch well, we know you can pitch well.' I know injuries happen, especially pitchers. That's just the nature of the game. But it's a little embarrassing. One game, you know? I think it's fluky, but some people perceive it like, 'It's the first game of the year, how the hell does that happen?' It's frustrating, in essence."