Skaggs shines in return to Angel Stadium

Skaggs shines in return to Angel Stadium

ANAHEIM -- The milestones keep getting bigger, more meaningful, as Tyler Skaggs navigates through the final stages of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. On Saturday night, eight days after appearing in his first game, Skaggs returned to Angel Stadium.

"This is home to me," Skaggs said. "It's really gratifying."

In front of an announced crowd of 42,643, Skaggs fired scoreless sixth, seventh and eighth innings during the Angels' 8-1 win over the Dodgers in the Freeway Series finale. He gave up one hit, struck out four, retired his final seven hitters, threw his fastball 92-94 mph and displayed a changeup of which he has become quite fond.

It was still only an exhibition game, but it meant a lot more.

Skaggs' first game back came at Camelback Ranch, a two-inning outing in front of a sparse crowd at a much smaller ballpark. This was a night game, in front of 30 family members and friends, against the rival Dodgers.

"This is a big league game," Skaggs said. "This is a big league stadium. You add that third tier, and the lights come on, it's a lot different than pitching in a Spring Training game. It's really humbling. I'm just taking it day by day, pitch by pitch. I'm excited."

Skaggs will now report to Triple-A Salt Lake, where he will continue his progression in hopes of joining the Angels' rotation before the end of April.

"I feel I could pitch right now, to be real with you," Skaggs said. "But you have to trust the process."

The 24-year-old left-hander entered camp 18 months removed from elbow-ligament replacement surgery, then momentarily shut himself down when his arm felt uncommonly sore from being on a mound every other day. He built his way back up, faced the White Sox on March 24, got scratched from his scheduled outing five days later because of a stomach virus and made his second appearance on Saturday, his first game at Angel Stadium since July 25, 2014.

It was his first time jogging into a game directly from the bullpen mound.

It felt "weird," Skaggs said, but the good kind.

"I kind of took my time jogging out there," Skaggs said. "I was really nervous; happy to be back. Actually, I'm kind of speechless about it because I went in with one goal in mind, and that was just to throw strikes and have fun. I had a … ton of fun today."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.