I have MANY questions about Alex Meyer now. Can he keep this up?
-- @joeflorkowski via Twitter
I think the Angels have been encouraged by what they've seen from Meyer this season, particularly following his dominant one-hit gem against the Nationals on Wednesday night. Meyer has always had plus stuff, but he's struggled with command issues, as his 6-foot-9 frame has often made it difficult for him to repeat his delivery and consistently get in the strike zone.
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Before the All-Star break, the Angels sent Meyer down to Triple-A Salt Lake and had him work on getting his "long levers" more in sync, according to manager Mike Scioscia. Meyer made one start at Triple-A and yielded three earned runs over five innings, but he also threw 50 of his 73 pitches for strikes.
"That was the best ball-strike ratio he's had all year," Scioscia said. "I don't care if you do it in Triple-A or here, that's important. If you throw pitches over the plate, that's step one for Alex."
Meyer was then able to build off that and carry it over to his start against Washington. Though he entered Wednesday averaging more than six walks per nine innings, he issued only one free pass, to Anthony Rendon, over seven innings. Meyer now has a 2.82 ERA over his last 10 starts, so it'll be interesting to see if he'll be able to continue pitching well over the final 2 1/2 months of the season.
How close are Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs to returning? Do we expect to see Nate Smith this year? If so, when would we?
-- @YbarraJoshua via Twitter
Skaggs is scheduled to pitch four innings in his second rehab start with Salt Lake on Saturday, and he appears to be the closest to rejoining the Angels' rotation. After that, he'll need at least one more Minor League outing before he's ready to be activated, putting him on track for an early August return.
Heaney began a rehab assignment in the Arizona League last week, marking his first game action since suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament last May. He'll still have to build up his pitch count in the coming weeks, but his chances of returning to pitch for the Angels in September are looking very good right now.
There's less certainty over whether Richards will be able to return in time to pitch again this season. He was cleared to start a throwing progression last week, but he remains in the preliminary stages of his rehab and will need six to eight weeks of throwing before he's ready to appear in a Major League game.
Smith is also rehabbing from an arm injury, though I expect him to become a rotation option for the Angels once he's healthy and stretched out. Barring any setbacks, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Anaheim by September.
Should the Angels trade Yunel Escobar for pitching and prospects? Red Sox need help at third base.
-- @mcjunkind via Twitter
Escobar, who has a slash line of .286/.344/.407 in 76 games this season, could be a potential trade chip for the Angels should they decide to sell, though he wouldn't net a huge return, since he's slated to be a free agent this winter. While the Red Sox are shopping for a third baseman, most contenders are settled at the hot corner, which will likely limit Escobar's trade market. As of right now, no reports have emerged suggesting that Escobar is among Boston's third-base targets, but the Red Sox are coming to town for a three-game series this weekend, so perhaps they'll be able to get a better look at him then.
Do the Angels have any prospects in Triple-A that could come up and help us with our offense?
-- Alfonso Perez, Santa Ana, Calif.
Carlos Perez is batting .394 with Salt Lake, though he's blocked by Martin Maldonado and is a career .226 hitter in the Majors. Infielder Kaleb Cowart is hitting .298 and could be an option at second base, but the Angels have decided to go with a platoon of Nick Franklin and Cliff Pennington for now.
I think the Angels are more likely to get offensive boosts from players who are already on their 25-man roster. For example, Michael Trout is 6-for-19 with two home runs since coming off the disabled list, and C.J. Cron seems to be heating up after homering in two of his last three games. Another positive sign is that the Angels scored seven runs against the Nationals on Wednesday, marking their highest output since June 22.
If the Angels turn in another sub-.500 season, is Mike Scioscia finally on the hot seat?
-- @itsLeeHarkins via Twitter
I think it's difficult to fault Scioscia for the Angels' performance over the last two seasons, because most of their struggles appear to have primarily stemmed from uncontrollable variables, chiefly injuries to their starting rotation. And while the Angels entered Thursday three games under .500 at 47-50, an American League Wild Card berth remains within reach, which is kind of impressive considering the Halos were without Trout for 39 games. I think Scioscia's willingness to eschew traditional bullpen roles and use his best relievers in the highest-leverage situations has helped the Angels stay in contention, so he deserves credit for that.