Posted on June 16, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
In recent years, the Los Angeles Angels have been devastated by injuries, perhaps more than any other team. Unfortunately, that trend appears to be continuing in 2018. On Friday, the Angels added four players to the DL. Infielder Zack Cozart and pitchers Garrett Richards, Jim Johnson, and Nick Tropeano were all put on the injured list. Those four now give the Angels 15 total players on the DL, which is the most in baseball and sets a franchise record. Four pitchers: Akeel Morris, Felix Pena, Jake Jewell, and Eduardo Parades have been called up to fill the roster spots.
Of the four new additions, Richards is easily the most impactful. He’s been one of the team’s best starters this season, posting a 3.42 ERA in 14 starts. After making just 12 starts total over the past two season, Richards finally appeared to be healthy this year. But the Angels aren’t taking any chances after Richards complained of hamstring tightness during his start on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately right now we’ve got to take a little half-step back and let it heal,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Richards. “It was definitely affecting how he was trying to execute pitches the other day. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s not going to be an extended injury.”
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The loss of Tropeano to shoulder inflammation compounds the loss of Richards. Of course, Shoehei Ohtani is already on the DL with his season in jeopardy after being diagnosed with a strained UCL. In just a few days, injuries have trimmed a six-man rotation down to three. Even Scioscia admits it’s a lot for his team to overcome.
“The toughest commodity to find is really good starting pitching,” Scioscia said Friday. “That takes a big dent out of what you’re trying to do.”
With so many starters on the DL, the Angels will need their bullpen to step up. That, of course, will be most difficult without Johnson, who’s been steady with a 3.93 ERA this year. Of course, the Angels lost closer Keynan Middleton to Tommy John surgery early in the year, so the Los Angeles bullpen has been shorthanded most of the season already.
Cozart has not had his best offensive season. He’s hitting just .219 with a disappointing OPS of .658. However, his defensive versatility has made him an important part of the Los Angeles infield. With Ian Kinsler on the DL early in the year and Andrelton Simmons currently on the DL, Cozart has been needed at third base, shortstop, and second base this year.
But a shoulder injury to Cozart will force Nolan Fontana, who’s hitting .091, to be the team’s primary shortstop until either Cozart or Simmons can return. Meanwhile, a struggling Luis Valbuena will continue to play third base most days.
The high volume of injuries has already taken a toll on the Angels. After a bright start to the season, the Halos have fallen 7.5 games back in the AL West and seven games out of a wild-card spot. With 15 players on the DL, the Angels could have a hard time staying within striking distance of a playoff spot. Nevertheless, the manager remains optimistic.
“We feel like we have the guys who are going to go in there and contribute and keep us going,” says Scioscia. “If we can pitch and have our bullpen hold leads, then we’re going to be fine.”