Canning's injury shakes up Angels' rotation

Right-hander set for more tests on ailing elbow this week

March 1st, 2020

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The waiting game continues for and the Angels.

The right-hander will be further evaluated and undergo additional tests on his ailing right elbow later this week as the Angels try to figure out the severity of Canning’s injury.

An MRI exam earlier this week revealed chronic changes to his ulnar collateral ligament and acute joint irritation, but the results were inconclusive with regard to the exact nature of the injury. Canning, who said he felt stiffness in the elbow following a two-inning outing on Wednesday, had been slated to test his arm with some throwing on Saturday, but that test never took place.

“We were going to throw him, but he wasn’t feeling up to speed throwing, so we chose not to,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Because of that, we’re going to go through some more tests. We don’t have any definitive answers yet.”

Maddon said Canning would undergo further testing on Wednesday or Thursday, calling the issue “a joint vs. ligament situation.” Regardless of what those tests reveal, it seems far-fetched to think the 23-year-old will be ready to go when the season opens on March 26.

“I don’t know that, but just being pragmatic, it would be hard to imagine that,” Maddon said. “I would say the best-case scenario, it gets him going pretty quickly after that. I’ve never heard of this stuff before. When you get this kind of injury, doctors are normally pretty definitive quickly. This one’s just not, so I’d prefer being optimistic and just wait until we get more information.”

Canning had been slated to be the Angels’ No. 4 starter, looking to build on a rookie season that saw him post a 4.58 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings.

With Canning likely on the shelf for the start of the season -- and possibly much longer if surgery is required -- the Angels now face the task of finding two starters to fill out the rotation behind Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran.

Patrick Sandoval (the Angels’ top pitching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline) started one of the team’s two games on Sunday, while Jose Suarez took the ball in the other. Both are considered candidates for the rotation, as are Matt Andriese and Jaime Barria.

“The candidates are great, it’s just a matter of experience and how they’ll be able to deal with all that,” Maddon said of the 22-year-old Suarez and 23-year-old Sandoval. “If you’re a scout and maybe just ran a fantasy baseball team, you kind of like this stuff. … These guys are both going to be Major League starters for a long time with good health, it’s just a matter of when do you want to start that? This is one of those things you may need to do or have to do where you’d prefer waiting to do it when you thought it was the right thing to do. That’s the kind of stuff we have to consider right now.”

Canning’s situation should hopefully be resolved by week’s end, providing the Angels with some clarity on the back end of their rotation and what it could look like for the upcoming season.

“In two weeks, we’ll know more,” Maddon said. “Where do we want to go with all of this and how do we want to start this whole thing out? I do like Sandoval, I like Suarez a lot; I just don’t know where they’re at on the ready chart.”