Tropeano on verge of rejoining Angels' rotation

Skaggs close to returning, while prospect Smith 'has opened some eyes'

Tropeano on verge of rejoining Angels' rotation

BOSTON -- Nick Tropeano will probably rejoin the rotation next week, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia believes he has more depth at the organization's top affiliate.

Tyler Skaggs, nearly 23 months into his recovery from Tommy John surgery, "is getting close," and Nate Smith, a top pitching prospect who will represent the Angels at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on July 10, has "definitely opened some eyes," Scioscia said.

Tropeano was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake upon getting activated off the disabled list June 24, a move that Angels general manager Billy Eppler admitted was motivated by the club's desire to preserve depth. More specifically, Tropeano was seemingly sent down to buy veteran starter Jhoulys Chacin more time to get right.

Chacin hasn't.

The 28-year-old right-hander gave up five runs on 12 hits and a couple of walks in 4 2/3 innings in Friday's 5-4 loss to the Red Sox. He has a 9.55 ERA over his last five starts, a stretch in which he has given up 38 hits, issued 15 walks and recorded only 10 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.

Chacin picks off Shaw at second

Soon, the Angels may either expose Chacin to waivers or move him to the bullpen.

"I'm not going to talk about any individual situations about what might happen," Scioscia said. "Whether Jhoulys is in the rotation or the bullpen or anywhere, his challenge right now is to be able to repeat pitches, and he's had trouble with that."

Tropeano, 25, gave up three earned runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts with the Angels, then spent about three weeks on the shelf battling shoulder inflammation and gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings for Salt Lake on Tuesday. Tropeano is eligible to return to the Majors as early as Monday and could take Chacin's spot Wednesday, though the Angels have yet to make any declarations.

Skaggs spent about two months recovering from what the team diagnosed as biceps tendinitis earlier this season, but he gave up a run in 4 1/3 innings for Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Monday and was scheduled to pitch five innings for Salt Lake on Saturday. If all goes well, the 24-year-old left-hander could be ready for the Majors before the end of July.

Smith may not be much further away.

Ranked third in the Angels' system by MLBPipeline.com, Smith has a 1.78 ERA over his past four starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Overall, the 24-year-old left-hander has a 3.81 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 89 2/3 innings in Triple-A, striking out 7.2 batters and issuing 2.3 walks per nine innings.

Bringing any of those three up would probably require parting ways with veteran pitchers, which could ultimately compromise the Angels' depth.

"We all feel that it doesn't make a lot of sense to have depth if you're not performing at your optimum on the Major League field," Scioscia said. "You're going to try to put the best team together here on the Major League field that you can."

Worth noting

• Angels third baseman Yunel Escobar returned to the lineup Saturday, after missing the past seven games with a tender left knee. Escobar was batting .310/.359/.409 from the leadoff spot. The Angels would've probably placed Escobar on the DL had he not played in this series.

• The Angels signed three 16-year-olds on the international market: Dominican shortstop Adderlin Santana, Venezuelan right-hander Jose Natera and Venezuelan catcher Edwin Bisay. They can't sign any international free agents for more than $300,000 because of their Roberto Baldoquin signing.

• Scioscia was still awaiting clarity from Major League Baseball as to why replay officials in New York did not believe there was enough evidence to rule fan interference on the ball Daniel Nava hit down the right-field line Friday in the ninth inning, which could've tied the game.

"I hope it wasn't a ground-rule issue, because it's very clear that he touched that ball," Scioscia said. "If you can't see if it was over the fence or not, which it was, it was definitely in an area that is still in play, and that's definitely what the boundary is for the field."

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.