Angels reliever Luke Bard is scheduled to undergo season-ending right hip surgery on May 20 with an estimated return to play in six to eight months, the club announced Thursday.
Bard, 30, had been dealing with hip discomfort since early March in Spring Training and elected to undergo the operation. He's posted a 5.05 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 66 innings over the last three seasons with the Angels and was expected to give the club some relief depth this season, but was placed on the 60-day injured list prior to Opening Day.
Angels manager Joe Maddon said he was a bit surprised that Bard would need season-ending surgery but could tell something was off with Bard when talking to him in Spring Training.
“I knew he was troubled by it,” Maddon said. “I could see his face talking to him in Spring Training, walking by the locker room and asking him how he was doing. If you look at a pitcher's face and when you ask them how they're doing and you get that look, you know it's not very good. It's very difficult to hide, so I knew it wasn't well but I didn't know to the extent that he would end up with season-ending surgery, but he was he was hurting pretty good at that time."
Bard remains under team control through 2025 and is eligible for arbitration in 2023. The younger brother of Rockies closer Daniel Bard, he’s always had good stuff with a mid-90s fastball and a solid slider but has struggled to find consistency in the Majors. He won’t count against the club’s 40-man roster this season because he’s on the 60-day IL and could be a candidate to be removed from the 40-man this offseason.
Stassi off to a hot start
Catcher Max Stassi experienced a breakout year offensively in 2020 and it’s carried over so far early in the season. Stassi, who wasn’t in the lineup for the series opener on Thursday with veteran Kurt Suzuki getting the start, is slashing .364/.462/.636 with a homer in five games after slashing .278/.352/.533 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 31 games last year.
“I feel great,” Stassi said. “I’m just trying to continue where I left off last year. I haven’t really changed a whole lot up. It’s more about refining my approach and continuing to work on mastering the zone. Just trying to dominant pitches over the middle and just get better at that.”
Maddon believes Stassi can remain a productive hitter because he underwent swing changes going into last year that have been paying off. He also underwent operations on both of his hips over the last two offseasons that have Stassi saying he’s feeling healthier than ever.
“I like his swing a lot,” Maddon said. “There was nothing for me to be prejudiced against last year because I had known him not be a good offensive player and then what I saw last year didn’t indicate that, at all. It’s a really strong swing and the guy has power. I think he’s learned to utilize the whole field.”
• The Angels have yet to determine their starters for Saturday and Sunday against the Blue Jays but it’s expected to be Shohei Ohtani and Alex Cobb in some order. Ohtani and Cobb both threw before Thursday’s game to get a better feel for who will start first.
• The club’s first taxi squad of the season includes catcher Anthony Bemboom, infielder Jack Mayfield, outfielder Jon Jay, starting pitcher Jaime Barria and reliever Ben Rowen.
• Reliever Félix Peña has been out with a right hamstring strain but has been running at full speed with no issues and has already been throwing off a mound. Maddon said he expects Peña to be ready to return soon, which means he could be activated by the time the club comes home to host the Twins on April 16. Peña is out of Minor League options, so once he’s ready, he’ll have to be added to the Major League roster.