Heaney is bent on beating odds
After undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery in July 2016, Andrew Heaney was not supposed to be fit to pitch this season. But the Angels left-hander has insisted since the spring that he could do it.
Having completed another successful start Sunday on rehab assignment for triple-A Salt Lake, Heaney is being proved correct.
“He’s making a strong case that he’s close,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Scioscia then noted that “very significant hurdles” remain in Heaney’s path back to the majors.
Sunday was the first time since the surgery that Heaney pitched on a normal starter’s schedule, with only four days of rest. That was a test. There were others: Scioscia said the Angels wanted Heaney to work into the 90-pitch range before activating him. Additionally, Scioscia said, the Angels would sift through his final 20 pitches and see how he maintained his velocity.
Heaney threw 87 pitches. All afternoon he hummed his fastballs at the same speed, between 90 and 92 mph, according to witnesses. The team’s No. 2 starter to open last season could rejoin the Angels rotation as soon as next weekend in Seattle, his next turn. If not, he’s not far away, and he's a long way away from the way the team spoke of him in spring training.
“From the information I have available right now, there is nothing that would make him available to pitch this year,” Scioscia said in February. “I just don’t see it happening.”
Speaking Sunday, Scioscia repeatedly declined to place any timeline on Heaney’s return.
“We should all be prudent enough to err on the side of the caution and make sure that he’s ready to go,” he said.
In mid-May, Heaney said he understood that any decision relevant to his return would happen in consultation with the club’s doctors, front office and coaches.
But, he said then, “In some sense, I know I can do whatever … I want.”
Scioscia suggested Sunday that Heaney’s fastball velocity has occasionally ticked up in recent outings. Similar increases have been reported in pitchers returning from the same surgery.
“He’s getting those random pitches, and we’re pretty confident that the reads are accurate, where he’s pushing that needle pretty high,” the manager said. ”His average velocity is in line with where he was, but he's got a couple where you go, ‘Wow, that’s pretty good.’ ”
Right-hander Matt Shoemaker will have surgery Tuesday to relieve pressure on the radial nerve in his forearm. He is out for the season. … Second baseman Kaleb Cowart did not start for the second time in three days because of a strained groin, but he pinchhit in the seventh inning. Scioscia said he expects to start Cowart on Monday against Baltimore. … Cowart replaced third baseman Yunel Escobar, who strained his intercostal muscle. He’ll undergo an MRI exam Monday. … Left fielder Cameron Maybin passed his final test in exercises supervised by team trainers. He’ll return to the Angels lineup Monday, less than three weeks after suffering a sprained knee trying to steal second base.
ANDREW HEANEY has maintained since elbow surgery in July 2016 that he would pitch this season.