Angels' Matt Shoemaker to bypass one start because of oblique strain

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 17 September 2014 | 12.56

The Angels have thrived in the wake of season-ending injuries to pitchers Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, moving to the brink of the American League West title despite Tuesday night's 13-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

Oakland lost to Texas, reducing to two the Angels' magic number to win the division.

But the road to the World Series got even steeper for the Angels on Tuesday when Matt Shoemaker was diagnosed with a mild strain of his left oblique, a rib-cage injury that will force the prized right-hander to bypass his next start and could threaten his availability for the playoffs.

Asked whether he thinks he'll be ready for the postseason, Shoemaker, who is 16-4 with a 3.04 earned-run average and has been the team's second-best starter behind Jered Weaver, said, "Very optimistically, yeah."

But even moderate oblique strains can sideline pitchers for four to six weeks. Recovery times vary depending on the severity of the strain and how quickly a player heals. And pitching with any kind of oblique strain can be very painful.

"You never know where these things go with pitchers," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Like hamstring injuries, they have a life of their own and can go a lot of different ways. We'll take it day to day. There's no time frame yet, but the news could have been a lot worse."

If Shoemaker, who was injured in the eighth inning Monday night, doesn't make his final two regular-season starts and is pushed back to Game 4 of the AL division series on Oct. 6, he would have nearly three weeks before his next start.

The challenge for Shoemaker will be to determine when he is ready to throw at full strength. If he tries to throw off a mound before he is fully healed, he could aggravate the injury and not play the playoffs at all.

Knowing the Angels have lost Richards and Skaggs, and knowing the team's World Series hopes could hinge on his performance, Shoemaker might feel pressure to push through some discomfort in an effort to return.

"But you can't heal to a calendar," Scioscia said. "I've seen guys at the end of spring training look at opening day, say they need to be ready by then and set themselves back. Matt's progress is not going to be tied to any schedule. It will be tied to this oblique healing."

Asked whether he had someone in mind to start in Shoemaker's place Saturday, Scioscia said, "You have any ideas?"

Left-handers Michael Roth and Wade LeBlanc are candidates, but both have pitched out of the bullpen for weeks, and neither is stretched out enough to throw 80 to 90 pitches.

"It will be a bullpen day," Scioscia said. "Out of our five starting spots right now, there are two bullpen days. That's where we are."

The Angels, fortunate an expanded September roster has afforded them an 18-man pitching staff, have used as many as eight relievers in games Richards would normally pitch.

But they have also used numerous relievers in many of the games left-handers C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago have started, putting an extreme burden on the bullpen.

"Unfortunately, right now, three-fifths of a rotation we're depending a lot on is out," Scioscia said. "But you have to move forward, you have to keep pitching and getting outs, and we're confident we will. It just might be a little bit unconventional in how we do so."

The Angels, of course, must return to a 25-man roster for the playoffs. Most teams carry 10 pitchers in the postseason. If Shoemaker is out, the Angels might need to carry 12 pitchers, which would leave them with a three-man bench.

But the Angels don't just need Shoemaker to fill out a four-man playoff rotation. They need him because he has been one of baseball's most consistent starters, a guy who "saved our season," as Scioscia said Monday.

Which is why Shoemaker will do everything in his power to return.

"There has not been one thing set in stone that says you're going to be ready in one week, you're going to be ready in two weeks," Shoemaker said. "We're literally going to take it day by day.

"The positive thing is I feel better than I did [Monday]. I woke up [Tuesday] and didn't feel as sore, which is good."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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