Heaney sets career highs in comeback season

Angels left-hander feels no ill effects from 2016 Tommy John surgery

August 17th, 2018

ARLINGTON -- On Saturday, left-hander will take the mound for the Angels on the one-year anniversary of his return from Tommy John surgery.

It will be just the latest milestone in what has largely been a successful comeback season for Heaney, who has already set career highs in wins, starts and innings pitched in his first full post-surgery campaign.

"Physically, I feel good," Heaney said Friday. "I feel normal for the middle of August. Like any pitcher, you always have your ups and downs throughout the season. I'm just trying to avoid the really rough ones and appreciate the good ones. You're constantly tinkering with little mechanical changes and trying to stay on top of it. I feel like I'm completely out of thinking about health or anything like that. You kind of shift your focus back to competing."

Heaney, 27, wasn't expected to pitch last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2016, but he beat the odds and returned to the Majors on Aug. 18, 2017, in Baltimore. At the recommendation of the Angels, Heaney shifted from the first-base side of the rubber to the third-base side during his rehab.

But the move ultimately didn't yield the benefits the club and Heaney had hoped for. Pitching from the third-base side, Heaney posted a 7.06 ERA and surrendered 12 home runs over 21 2/3 innings in five starts for the Angels before missing the final three weeks of the 2017 season with a left shoulder issue.

During the offseason, Heaney resolved to switch back to the side where he felt more comfortable.

"I just wanted to get back to what I was doing before, so I went back to the first-base side," Heaney said. "I think it's a comfort factor for me on locating, and it also helps me to create angle when I'm going in on righties. The other way, it just kind of feels like everything is just sort of straight, whereas now I can create angle. That kind of helps me a little bit with some deception."

Heaney threw from the first-base side for most of Spring Training, though he briefly reverted to the third-base side after a bout of left elbow inflammation forced him to open the season on the disabled list. In his first two starts of the year, Heaney allowed 10 earned runs over 9 1/3 innings.

Frustrated with the results, Heaney decided to move back to the first-base side for good. Since then, he's posted a 3.45 ERA over 125 1/3 innings in 20 starts for the Angels, emerging as a key pillar in a rotation that has been ravaged by injuries this year.

"I think it was important for him to come back and pitch at the end of last year just to know going into spring he'd be healthy," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had a couple of little minor setbacks in the spring, but he's on a terrific roll. I think he's comfortable with his stuff. His stuff is good. He's putting pitches together very well. Hopefully there's many years to come for Andrew, because he's worked very hard to get to this point."

Worth noting

• The Angels recalled right-handers and from Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday and optioned right-handers Osmer Morales and . Despaigne, who started against the Rangers in his Angels debut Friday, became the 34th pitcher used by the team this season, setting a franchise record.

"We've had to adapt, no doubt," Scioscia said. "But other clubs are facing it. I don't think there's ever a year where the consensus isn't that pitching is a little thin and the quality of pitching might not be what it could be. When you combine that with some of the guys that we had counted on being out of our rotation, you have to look for other ways to get it done. I think for the most part, in our bullpen, we've been able to do that. Our rotation is still coming together and trying to keep us in games. I think you just line guys up the best way you can. I think our pitchers have done a terrific job this year."

has shifted his rehab from right forearm surgery to Arizona and will likely visit the club during its two-game series against the D-backs next week. Shoemaker has progressed to throwing "up-down" bullpens, which simulate breaks between innings.

• Right-hander , who was designated for assignment on Tuesday, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class A Advanced Inland Empire. Diaz, 29, spent most of the season on the restricted list after visa issues prevented him from leaving his native Colombia. He was activated on July 26 and logged a 6.52 ERA over 9 2/3 innings in seven appearances with Inland Empire.