Wood to seek second opinion on injured UCL
TORONTO -- Less than a week after learning that they would lose right-hander Keynan Middleton to season-ending Tommy John surgery, the Angels received more bad news about another key reliever. Right-hander Blake Wood underwent an MRI exam on Monday that revealed damage to his ulnar collateral ligament and will seek a second option before deciding on a course of treatment.
Wood, 32, was originally placed on the disabled list with a right elbow posterior impingement on April 23, but he appeared to be on the verge of rejoining the Angels after making three rehab appearances with Class A Advanced Inland Empire last week. Still, the Angels were concerned about how Wood was recovering between outings, which prompted them to order the MRI that showed the damaged UCL. Wood previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012.
"It's a tough situation, obviously," general manager Billy Eppler said Tuesday. "He comes back and he's throwing hard in his rehab assignment, but he just wasn't getting the recovery, so it kind of made us scratch our heads a little bit. Got him imaged, and that image showed a tear on the graft from his previous Tommy John surgery. We'll see. He's going to go and have a follow-up appointment and see what the options for plan of care are."
Wood had been one of the Angels' steadiest back-end relievers prior to the injury, logging a 2.31 ERA over 11 2/3 innings in 13 appearances this season. He is the third Angels pitcher to suffer a UCL injury this season, joining right-hander JC Ramirez and Middleton, who was scheduled to have his Tommy John surgery performed Tuesday by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.
"It's a shame," manager Mike Scioscia said of Wood. "We'll get an indication of exactly what's happening here as he continues to get more tests. But he's worked very hard and was throwing the ball very well. We'll just keep our fingers crossed."
The loss of Wood and Middleton has created a bit of a void at the back end of the Angels' bullpen, which has posted a 5.37 ERA in May, the third-highest mark in the Majors. Will those injuries motivate Eppler to seek out relief help?
"I'm always open-minded to help, whether it's run scoring, run prevention," Eppler said. "I don't carry any bias on whatever can help."
Cozart still against 'bullpenning'
Zack Cozart sparked some debate Sunday after coming out strongly against the Rays' decision to start right-handed reliever Sergio Romo in back-to-back games in their series against the Angels over the weekend. Cozart expanded his argument against the practice on Tuesday, expressing concern that the strategy could ultimately depress salaries for starting pitchers.
"The biggest thing that I was trying to get across is I feel like teams have an ulterior motive when they're doing this," Cozart said. "Less starting pitching means you don't have to pay guys as much. I don't want baseball to go in that direction because of the money.
"I'm not saying I don't see their side of it," he continued. "I get it. We have a lot of righties in the lineup. They didn't want to start the lefty and Romo is usually pretty good versus righties. It's not like I don't get it. I just don't want to get where guys aren't getting paid as much because there's a ton of bullpen guys coming in one after another, and then all of the sudden there's one or two guys on the staff who start."
Ohtani vs. Tanaka
Scioscia said that the Angels are expecting Shohei Ohtani to make his next pitching appearance Sunday against the Yankees in New York. That would likely set up a matchup between Ohtani and fellow Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of interest, obviously, because of the uniqueness of it," Scioscia said. "But we're going to focus on our team, our pitching."
Moving on up
Several notable Angels prospects have received promotions: Outfielder Jo Adell, the Angels' first-round Draft pick in 2017 and No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is moving to Class A Advanced Inland Empire; infielder Luis Rengifo and outfielder Brandon Sandoval are moving to Double-A Mobile; and left-hander Jose Suarez (No. 11) and first baseman Matt Thaiss (No. 8) are moving to Triple-A Salt Lake. Third baseman Taylor Ward (No. 13) is also slated to be promoted to Salt Lake, but he suffered a finger injury while packing and was placed on the Double-A disabled list.
• Matthew Shoemaker (right forearm strain) visited nerve specialist Dr. Susan Mackinnon in St. Louis for a follow-up appointment on Monday and is scheduled to see her again on Wednesday, according to Eppler.
• The Angels have requested unconditional-release waivers on infielder Ryan Schimpf, who is currently on the Salt Lake roster.