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Middleton returns to DL with UCL damage

Angels reliever seeking second opinion before deciding course of action
MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- The Angels placed right-hander Keynan Middleton on the disabled list for the second time this season Monday after an MRI exam revealed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. No decision has been made regarding the course of treatment, as Middleton will seek a second opinion.

"It's tough news," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think anytime a pitcher has news that there's some damage to any part of their arm, obviously there's great concern. We're going to take this one step at a time and see what happens."

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ANAHEIM -- The Angels placed right-hander Keynan Middleton on the disabled list for the second time this season Monday after an MRI exam revealed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. No decision has been made regarding the course of treatment, as Middleton will seek a second opinion.

"It's tough news," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think anytime a pitcher has news that there's some damage to any part of their arm, obviously there's great concern. We're going to take this one step at a time and see what happens."

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Middleton missed nine games earlier this month with right elbow inflammation, but he was activated off the DL on Thursday. The 24-year-old pitched two scoreless innings after returning before departing his outing against the Twins on Sunday with discomfort in his elbow. Middleton's final two fastballs to Eddie Rosario were clocked at 88.2 and 92.7 mph, significantly below his 97.2-mph average in 2017.

Middleton has been a key cog in the back end of the Angels' bullpen this season and was the club's primary closer before his initial DL stint, logging a 2.04 ERA with six saves over 17 2/3 innings. No other Angels reliever has more than one save this year, though veteran Jim Johnson has drawn most of the closing opportunities of late.

"I don't think we ever had one guy that was the ninth-inning guy," Scioscia said. "Keynan was pitching the eighth inning the other day. We've got some guys in the back end that are going to have to get outs for us, and how they line up in a certain game right now will be dictated by how the game unfolds and some matchups and things like that. But we're confident that we're going to have arms down there that will get the outs we need."

The Angels recalled right-hander Felix Pena from Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday to replace Middleton in the bullpen. The Angels had been stretching Pena out to be a starter in the Minor Leagues, so he will likely be used as the long man in the bullpen. He has recorded a 4.50 ERA over 18 innings in six appearances (five starts) for Salt Lake this year.

"There's no doubt starting has given him some length, which is going to be important to us," Scioscia said. "He's throwing the ball very well. There's no doubt that he can come in and give us the two-plus innings, three-inning bridge to get to certain matchups late in the game. And he can be part of that back-end, depending on how it goes. But he's been throwing the ball very well."

The Angels are also hoping to incorporate right-hander Blake Wood into their relief corps soon. Wood, who has been on the DL since April 23 with an elbow impingement, pitched a scoreless inning in his first rehab appearance with Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Monday night.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Keynan Middleton