HOUSTON -- One day after Shohei Ohtani is scheduled to make his long-awaited return to the mound, the Angels are projected to get another key piece of their rotation back. Matthew Shoemaker is slated to pitch Monday's series opener at Texas, marking his first outing in the Majors since March 31.
Shoemaker made only one appearance for the Angels this season before landing on the disabled list on April 3 with a recurrence of the right forearm issues that cost him more than half of the 2017 campaign.
Shoemaker thought the problem had been resolved after he underwent surgery to release the compressed radial nerve in his forearm last August, but the symptoms cropped up again at the beginning of the season. The source of Shoemaker's discomfort eluded the Angels for months, as a battery of tests and MRIs initially came back clean.
On May 29, Shoemaker underwent a second surgery to decompress a nerve in his right forearm, leading to the discovery of a split pronator teres tendon. Angels doctors were able to repair the tendon during the procedure, and Shoemaker was cleared to resume throwing six weeks later. Unlike last year, Shoemaker encountered no setbacks during his rehab, convincing him that his health issues are finally behind him.
"Frustrating is the best way to describe it," Shoemaker said Saturday. "Especially the first month or two, when nobody knew what it was. We talked about it before, all the MRIs were clean, and then the surgery going in, they found the problem, which was obviously great. But yeah, being off for this amount of time, especially with something that we dealt with last year that we thought was good for this year, was super frustrating.
"But these things aren't in your control. You've just got to stay positive and keep working hard to get back."
The Angels were encouraged by the results of Shoemaker's rehab start with Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Wednesday, when he threw 59 pitches and did not allow a hit over four innings.
"The internals of his workouts were terrific," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Without putting too much pressure on a guy, hopefully he'll get into his game and pitch like Matty can pitch. We'll take it inning by inning, see how he holds up. But his stuff graded out very well in his Minor League appearance."
The Angels' first batch of September callups arrived Saturday, as right-handers Junichi Tazawa and Miguel Almonte and infielder Jose Fernandez were added to the club's roster. More players are expected to be called up once Triple-A Salt Lake's season ends on Monday.
Tazawa, 32, opened the season with the Marlins but was released after posting a 9.00 ERA over 20 innings. After a brief stint with the Tigers' organization, Tazawa signed a Minor League deal with the Angels in July and reported to the club's training facility in Arizona, where he worked on tweaking his mechanics.
Tazawa posted a 7.11 ERA over 6 1/3 innings in seven appearances with Triple-A Salt Lake before being called up.
"We saw him in Boston in the big leagues and his velocity was a little bit better," Scioscia said. "He still has plenty of velocity, spins the ball really well. He's a veteran pitcher that can make pitches. He threw the ball well down below, and hopefully he'll continue to bring it up here and throw the ball with the consistency that he has."
Though Tazawa and countryman Ohtani share an agent, they didn't play each other in their native Japan, as Tazawa chose to bypass Nippon Professional Baseball and sign with the Red Sox straight out of high school.
"I know Ohtani, but I don't know if he knows [me]," Tazawa said through an interpreter.
Almonte, 25, logged a 10.18 ERA in 20 1/3 innings for Triple-A Salt Lake this season. Fernandez, a 30-year-old left-handed hitter, finished the Minor League season batting .333 with a .931 OPS and 17 home runs in 91 games for Salt Lake and is expected to platoon with Jefry Marte at first base now that Jose Pujols is out for the remainder of the season.