8/4/2014 9:53 P.M. ET
Angels expect pitching depth to be tested
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Angels didn't make a move in the days leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, partly because they didn't have the prospects to acquire a front-of-the-rotation starter but mostly because they had already beefed up the bullpen to give themselves legitimate pitching depth.
Ever since Thursday's Deadline came and went, though, the injury bug has struck.
And now, with division races heating up, their pitching depth will really be tested.
"It's obvious that we're stretched," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But I think we're still going to be very effective right now if we can hold all these guys where they need to be, and we have the pitching that can get us to our goal. But if you're talking about the depth, sure, it's been stretched. No doubt."
Tyler Skaggs suffered a strain in the flexor tendon of his left forearm during his start at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Thursday night, and though the 23-year-old left-hander said Monday that he's confident he'll return before the end of the season, there's still no telling when that will be.
That puts the Angels at five starters, with next to nothing readily available in their Minor League system and one of their key cogs, C.J. Wilson, continuing to work through one of the roughest stretches of his career.
Then there's the bullpen, which won't have Mike Morin for the next couple of weeks because he lacerated his foot on Saturday night, and it may not have a lefty specialist for all of August because Joe Thatcher suffered a sprained left ankle earlier that day.
The Angels are better equipped to go without a lefty specialist, thanks to the added depth provided by Huston Street and Jason Grilli, but "the inherent strategy of having a lefty to do some things won't be there," Scioscia said.
The biggest concern is the starting rotation, particularly Wilson, who has a 12.50 ERA in his last five starts and lasted only 1 1/3 innings in his return from the DL on Saturday.
"The biggest thing," pitching coach Mike Butcher said of Wilson's struggles, "is he's been working himself into some deep counts, and when you're doing that sometimes you're showing all your pitches early in the game to hitters. It works as a disadvantage because now they've seen every pitch."
The Angels still sport a respectable 3.73 ERA, and they have the sixth-best ERA in the American League (3.37) since the start of July. But the schedule is getting tougher, the games are ever crucial, and both the A's (Jon Lester) and Tigers (David Price) made significant moves to bolster their rotation, putting added pressure on the Angels' staff down the stretch.
Butcher prefers they not look at it that way.
"The thing we don't want them to do is put all the pressure on their shoulders, to go out there and think they have to be the saving grace for our club," Butcher said. "We have tremendous defensive abilities, we have a team that can put runs on the board. If we go out there and just give our team a chance to win, we feel really good."
Cowgill makes welcomed return from DL
LOS ANGELES - Here's a surprising factoid: Collin Cowgill has a higher Wins Above Replacement score than Albert Pujols. The backup outfielder has a WAR of 2.0, per FanGraph.com's system; the superstar first baseman has a WAR of 1.9.
Yes, it tends to point out a flaw in WAR, which puts a lot of weight on defensive metrics that still have holes. But it's also a testament to how important Cowgill is to the Angels.
"He's one of those players you don't really notice what he does until he's not there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Cowgill, who was activated off the disabled list for Monday's Freeway Series opener.
Cowgill had been out since suffering a broken nose and right thumb during a hit by pitch on July 12. The nose hadn't been an issue for quite some time. The thumb, which didn't require surgery, felt good during a three-game rehab assignment for Triple-A Salt Lake in which he went 4-for-12 with a couple of doubles.
"Catching was the biggest concern, because when I first started getting into baseball activities I couldn't even put my hand in my glove," Cowgill said. "I caught a pretty hard line drive last night, no problem. I needed that, just to make sure [the right thumb] was comfortable."
Trip to beach sends Morin to DL
LOS ANGELES - Mike Morin was walking on the beach in St. Petersburg, Fla., with a couple of friends Saturday night and cut the bottom of his foot on an unknown object, prompting four stitches and a trip to the disabled list for the Angels' rookie reliever.
The 23-year-old right-hander, who has a 2.36 ERA in 41 appearances, doesn't require a walking boot and expects to return by the time his DL stint is up in a couple of weeks.
But the nature of the ailment made it a difficult one to come to grips with.
"This is pretty tough, especially because this is such an important time for us right now," Morin said. "It's something that I need to move forward from and just try to help this team in other ways. I'm staying positive."
• Angels starter Tyler Skaggs got his second MRI exam in Los Angeles on Monday, this one with a contrasting agent, and it confirmed nothing more serious than a flexor strain in his left forearm.
"Very happy," Skaggs said.
The 23-year-old left-hander is confident that he'll be back before the end of the season, but doesn't know when.
• Lefty reliever Joe Thatcher got an MRI exam on Monday that confirmed a ligament sprain in his left ankle. Thatcher, wearing a walking boot, is hoping to make it back in three to four weeks, calling it "a pretty straightforward rehab."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.