Nate Smith, a 25-year-old left-hander who has been the best starter at Triple-A Salt Lake of late, with a 2.49 ERA over his last four starts, and who was expected to soon make his Major League debut, was taken out of his start on Saturday night after two innings against Las Vegas because of elbow soreness.
As of Sunday morning, the club didn't have any concrete information regarding the severity of the injury, but it's just another piece of unpleasant news for a staff that has been devastated by health woes this year.
Smith is the fifth-best prospect in the system, according to MLBPipeline.com.
Three of the club's five projected 2016 starters -- Garrett Richards (torn ulnar collateral ligament), Andrew Heaney (Tommy John surgery) and C.J. Wilson (left shoulder surgery) -- are out for the year, and a host of others, starters and relievers alike (Huston Street, Cam Bedrosian, Nick Tropeano), are also gone. Starter Tyler Skaggs didn't come back from his elbow woes until recently. Reliever Cory Rasmus (groin) had surgery in July and is slated to get back to simulated game work Monday in Arizona.
The team wanted to get a look at Smith and recent trade acquisition Alex Meyer in September as it prepares for the offseason and planning for 2017. Meyer will get the ball Wednesday in Oakland in his Angels bow, but Smith's big-league debut now appears to be on hold.
"I don't know if there's any silver lining to what has gone on," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think any Major League team, when you set your depth chart, there are definitely some things that you know you have to absorb.
"Sometimes when you're in a position like we are and you lose four guys [Richards, Wilson, Heaney, Tropeano] you were counting on to being part of your starting rotation that don't get there, and really a fifth guy [Skaggs] that we thought was going to be there at the end of April and he showed up mid-season, I don't think any organization is braced for that. You can't have that much depth in your Minor Leagues to bring up a whole new rotation. And that's kind of what we're battling with right now."
Escobar out of lineup: Third baseman and leadoff man Yunel Escobar was not in Sunday's lineup after taking a 94 mph Taijuan Walker fastball off the back of his left hand on the first pitch of the game Saturday night. X-rays were negative and Scioscia said Escobar was "a little sore" but remained day-to-day.
"We'll see how he feels tomorrow," Scioscia said.
Angels claim pitcher: The Angels claimed right-hander Daniel Wright on waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. Wright, who has been mostly a starter in the Minor Leagues, has made four big league appearances this year for the Reds, with two starts. He has a 7.62 ERA in the Majors and a 4.44 ERA in the Minors. The Angels have not yet announced a 40-man-roster move to make room for Wright.
Robinson back soon: Outfielder Shane Robinson, who's been on the disabled list with a hip flexor injury, came out of Saturday night's rehab game with Salt Lake in good order. Scioscia said he should be activated sometime in Oakland.