Heaney inspired by Skaggs after TJ surgery

Heaney inspired by Skaggs after TJ surgery

KANSAS CITY -- Tuesday marked the 26th day of Andrew Heaney's recovery from Tommy John surgery, which you can figure out simply by glancing at his Instagram page. He's in Anaheim now. Heaney and his wife were going to spend the day shopping, then grab a bite to eat, then settle into their apartment and tune into the Angels' game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, where Tyler Skaggs made his return from the same procedure, five days before the two-year anniversary of his last Major League start.

Heaney called Skaggs' return "inspirational," though he didn't want to appear overly sentimental.

"Thing is, I've never seen Tyler Skaggs pitch in a big league game," said Heaney, who didn't become an Angel until December 2014, about four months after Skaggs' surgery. "I've only ever seen him rehabbing. That's kind of how I know him as a baseball player. So to see him finally get to compete is awesome."

Heaney is one of three Angels starting pitchers to damage his ulnar collateral ligament this season, but so far the only one who has undergone Tommy John surgery.

Garrett Richards is still waiting to see if the stem-cell therapy he began in May will allow him to avoid surgery, with an important followup visit scheduled for next week. Nick Tropeano was diagnosed with a medium- to high-grade tear in his UCL last Tuesday, and though Dr. David Altchek confirmed the diagnosis, Tropeano is still waiting to make a final decision on surgery.

Skaggs -- 23 months into his recovery from Tommy John, about nine months longer than normal -- was on track to be ready for the Majors before the end of April, but shoulder tightness kept him out of Minor League games for more than two months.

Then, he built himself all the way back up again.

"To see him kind of be able to go out there and kind of get to, like, competing, and being who he was before I ever got to meet him, I think that's cool," Heaney said. "And to know that for him it took a lot longer than I'm sure he hoped or anticipated, and I'm sure a lot longer than he hoped it was going to take, it's nice for me to see that and understand that even if things don't go accordingly, they can still work out. I know how hard he's worked to get to where he is."

Less outfield coverage
To create a spot on the active roster for Skaggs, the Angels designated switch-hitting outfielder Todd Cunningham for assignment. Cunningham was a late-game defensive replacement in left field and an occasional pinch-runner. Without him, the Angels also don't have a natural backup in center, and probably won't have one any time soon.

Craig Gentry has played in 12 Minor League games since rejoining his rehab assignment, six of which have come for Triple-A Salt Lake, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he's "got a long way to go" because he was set back nearly two months. Shane Robinson, out since July 6 because of a sprained right ankle, won't begin a rehab assignment until Thursday.

Asked why the club didn't simply option right-handed-hitting corner infielder Jefry Marte, who has only started once since July 10, Scioscia said: "Against left-handed pitching, his bat can be an important part of the lineup."

Injured prospect
Second-round Draft pick Brandon Marsh is nursing a stress reaction in his lower back that will keep him out of baseball activities for the rest of this summer. He is expected to be ready by Spring Training. Marsh, a high-school outfielder, signed for $1,073,300 a week before the deadline.

In a statement, the Angels said: "Multiple back specialists concluded that after adequate rehab and strengthening, he will be a fully able and active player."

Pujols returns to the field
Albert Pujols started at first base on Tuesday for the first time since June 17. Pujols has been starting exclusively at designated hitter ever since tweaking his left hamstring on June 19. The 36-year-old said his hamstring still nags at him from time to time.

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.