Baseball / Sports

Angels pitcher Skaggs to undergo Tommy John surgery

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Tyler Skaggs has joined the long parade of pitchers to succumb to Tommy John surgery. The promising young Los Angeles Angels left-hander was diagnosed with an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow and will undergo the procedure on Wednesday, sidelining him for the rest of this season and all of 2015.

"I want to fix this as soon as possible so I can come back in 2016 and start fresh and ready to go," Skaggs, 23, said before the Angels' 3-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. "It was a really tough decision, but I feel like I made the right choice for my career and for the team, honestly."

Skaggs, who went 5-5 with a 4.30 earned run average in 18 starts, suffered what was initially diagnosed as a flexor tendon strain in a July 31 game at Baltimore, and there was some hope he might return this season.

But there was too much inflammation for an initial MRI test, performed last weekend in Tampa Bay, to reveal the tear. A pair of contrast MRIs performed Monday and Wednesday in Los Angeles confirmed what Skaggs called a "high-grade" tear, but not a complete tear, of the ligament.

The Angels gave Skaggs the choice of surgery or rehabilitation, a process that would have included a platelet-rich plasma injection to accelerate healing.

"That works for two out of 10 guys," Skaggs said. "Could I have been two of 10? Yes, maybe. But I don't want to go off 20 percent."

Skaggs consulted current and former teammates such as Jarrod Parker (Oakland) and Patrick Corbin (Arizona), who have had the surgery, before making his final decision Friday.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers team physician, will perform the surgery, which requires 12 to 18 months of recovery. According to reports, some 45 pitchers have undergone the procedure this year.

"I don't want to go out there at 75 percent for this team, especially going into the playoffs," Skaggs said. "It would be tough pitching with a torn UCL. I could rehab it, but the doctors said it didn't have a great chance of holding up.

"I felt in my heart, in my gut, that I needed to get this done so I could be 100 percent out there and not look back over my shoulder and think, 'Should I let this one go or lob it up there and see how it feels?' The rehab process is mentally draining, but I have to deal with it."

The success rate of Tommy John surgery is 85 percent to 90 percent. Skaggs' age and the fact he had no prior arm injuries make him an ideal candidate.

"Forty years ago, this injury was a career-ender -- Tommy John surgery is a career-saver," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Of all the surgeries a pitcher could have, Tommy John, I think, is the most reliable with the most predictable outcome."

General Manager Jerry Dipoto will continue to scour the waiver wire for rotation depth -- the Dodgers added two starters, Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia, after the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline -- but the chances of acquiring an impact starter this month are slim.

The loss of Skaggs until 2016 will intensify Dipoto's winter pursuit of pitching, but it won't push the team into the market for free-agent aces such as Jon Lester or Max Scherzer. Current starters Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago are under club control for 2015.

"We feel like we have front men, middle men and back-of-the-rotation starters," Dipoto said. "We'll try to create as much depth as we can. I don't know too many circumstances where your young starter gets hurt and you're compelled to go chase the top of the market. We'll stay focused on the model we set up."

Skaggs, acquired from Arizona last winter in the Mark Trumbo trade, figures to team with Richards, 26, as the foundation of the Angels rotation for years to come.

In fact, Skaggs was throwing a no-hitter against the Orioles when he injured his arm throwing a fifth-inning changeup to Delmon Young and came out of the game two batters later.

"I'm still kind of dumbfounded as to how it happened," Skaggs said. "It's hard to go from throwing 95 mph and thinking it's turning into something special to all of a sudden you throw one pitch and you can't feel your hand."

RED SOX 3, ANGELS 1

KEY MOMENT: With two on in the eighth inning of a scoreless tie, Angels reliever Joe Smith hung a slider that Yoenis Cespedes crushed for a three-run homer to left field. That ended a string of 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings for Smith, but it wasn't all that surprising. Cespedes, the former Oakland outfielder, is five for 10 against Smith and has driven in five of the 14 runs Smith has given up this season. "Every time I miss," Smith said, "he's on it." Smith will have to change his patterns to Cespedes, who had an idea what was coming. "I've faced Smith for a long time and he's been starting me off with a sinker, and then he follows it up with a slider," Cespedes said. "When I saw the first sinker, I knew he was going to come with the slider, and I was able to capitalize on it."

AT THE PLATE: Mike Trout hit a solo homer to left, his 27th of the season, in the eighth inning, but in 23 games since the All-Star break, the Angels are batting an American League-low .223 and averaging 3.17 runs a game. They are three for 39 (.077) with runners in scoring position in the last six games. Howie Kendrick grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the first, and the Angels failed to score after putting runners on first and third with no outs in the fourth.

ON THE MOUND: Angels left-hander Hector Santiago gave up two hits over six scoreless innings, striking out five and walking three. Red Sox right-hander Rubby De La Rosa (4-4) allowed one run and five hits in seven innings, striking out eight and walking three. Koji Uehara picked up his 25th save.

ROSTER MOVES: The Angels bolstered the pitching staff after Saturday's 19-inning game, recalling relievers Vinnie Pestano and Caleb Clay from triple-A and optioning reliever Cam Bedrosian and first baseman C.J. Cron to Salt Lake. Pestano, who struck out three of four batters in the ninth Sunday, was acquired from Cleveland last week. Clay pitched in South Korea this year.

EXTRA BASES: The Angels remained four games behind Oakland in the AL West, but their wild-card lead over Kansas City has shrunk to 41/2 games. ... Pestano was the 30th pitcher the Angels have used this season, breaking the franchise record of 29 pitchers in 1996.

UP NEXT: The Angels are off Monday. Left-hander C.J. Wilson (8-8, 4.83 ERA) will oppose Philadelphia right-hander Jerome Williams (2-5, 6.71 ERA) at Angel Stadium on Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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