Skaggs set for first start in nearly two years

After lengthy rehab, Angels lefty to face Royals on Tuesday

Skaggs set for first start in nearly two years

HOUSTON -- Angels general manager Billy Eppler called Tyler Skaggs on Sunday morning and gave him the news he had waited nearly two years to hear -- he's coming back to the big leagues.

"It's been a long road, man," Skaggs said in a phone conversation later that afternoon. "It's very gratifying. But the work is not done."

In some ways, it's only just beginning.

Skaggs will rejoin the Angels' rotation to pitch Tuesday's game, against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, five days before the two-year anniversary of his last Major League start. Skaggs tore his ulnar collateral ligament in Baltimore on July 31, 2014, after 4 2/3 innings with no hits, then underwent Tommy John surgery a couple weeks later and has been working his way back ever since.

The 6-foot-4 left-hander appeared in a couple of Spring Training games in March and was on track to be ready before the end of April, but his shoulder got sore and he went more than two months between pitching in games.

"I had done every shoulder exercise in the books for 19 months, but nothing compares to throwing a baseball every single day," Skaggs, 25, said. "Everyone heals differently. I felt great in Spring Training. Things didn't work out the way I wanted, but everything happens for a reason."

Looking back, Skaggs said "the process actually felt like it went by faster than I expected it to."

Maybe that's because it ended so upliftingly.

Skaggs returned to pitching in Minor League games on June 22 and dominated in his last two starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, throwing a combined 12 2/3 scoreless innings while giving up just two hits, issuing three walks and striking out 26.

His stint in the Minors, which stretched four months if you include the interrupted period, was "humbling," Skaggs said. "It made me want to work even harder to get to the big leagues."

Skaggs' return provides much-needed encouragement in a season plagued by injuries and underperformance throughout the Angels' starting rotation.

Andrew Heaney (left elbow) and C.J. Wilson (left shoulder) have undergone season-ending surgeries, and Garrett Richards and Nick Tropeano suffered tears in their UCLs. Tim Lincecum (8.70 ERA) and Jered Weaver (5.32 ERA) have struggled. And Skaggs is one of just three starters essentially on track to pitch in the Angels' rotation next season, along with Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago.

"We're all very excited to see him be ready to take the ball," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was working on refining some stuff. He hadn't thrown in a long time. It looks like he got the work in that he needed to and he's ready to go after that challenge of pitching in the big leagues."

A product of Santa Monica High School, Skaggs was drafted 40th overall by the Angels in the 2009 Draft and was the centerpiece of two trades orchestrated by former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, going first to the D-backs, in a deal that sent Dan Haren to the Angels in August 2010, and then coming back in a three-team trade that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona in December 2013.

Skaggs locked down a spot in the Angels' rotation at the start of 2014, posting a 4.30 ERA in 18 starts during his interrupted age-22 season.

His parents will be in the stands on Tuesday, and so will his girlfriend.

He expects to be nervous.

"Of course," Skaggs said. "But it's a good nervous."

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.