The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim may have to club their way to victory in the next month as their ace and perennial Cy Young contender, Jared Weaver, has hit the 15-day DL with a non-throwing arm elbow fracture.
Weaver, whose velocity had already been down to start the season, fell awkwardly on his left arm in a 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers on Sunday. Although initial X-rays were negative, it now appears that there is a break in Weaver’s left elbow and it is estimated that he will require about a month to recuperate.
Weaver is critical to the Angels’ chance to take the AL West division title, as he is the team’s only true ace and anchor of a mediocre and relatively shallow rotation. The Angels will now have to rely on C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hansen to lead the team’s pitching staff through the first brutal month of their schedule. The Angels also have to rely on Weaver’s likely replacement, the young 24-year-old right-hander Garrett Richards, who was 4-3 with a 4.69 ERA in 71 innings last year. Richard has been used in both a relief role and as a starter, but he will have to step up his performance if he wants to fulfill the team’s need for a solid replacement.
Another option for the Angels would be to hit the waiver wire. Former Dodger pitcher Aaron Harang would have been a good fit, but he was recently picked up by the Colorado Rockies in a minor trade. Roy Oswalt may be a possibility as he is still a free agent, says he wants to play for a contender and claimed on Twitter that he hasn’t “felt this good since 2010.”
The injury to Weaver exposes a critical flaw of the 2013 Angels–a serious lack of pitching depth at both the major and minor league level. Losing Zach Greinke to the Dodgers looks like an even bigger blow as he could have easily fulfilled the role of “ace” for the Angels right now, and the depletion of talented prospects because of that trade means that a big deal to bring on another quality starter is unlikely.
The Angels’ offense, as potent as it is with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trumbo, are now going to be put under increasing pressure to put up huge numbers. Hamilton, who has struggled since coming over from the Rangers and signing an enormous contract, has gone 4-25 with no home runs and 10 K’s since the start of the year. Pujols is now being walked to get to Hamilton, and the former Ranger has been a consistent rally killer. This trend has to change if the Angels are going to put together a strong first month.
Victory in the brutal completion of the AL West–excluding the Houston Astros–was already going to require offensive dominance by the heart of the Angels’ order, but if it fails to meet expectations the team’s pitching staff will be unlikely to carry it to the postseason. There has been increasing pressure on manager Mike Sciocia and a few rumblings that he may be on the hot seat if the team fails to meet its sky-high expectations again this season. Sciocia certainly has his work cut out for him in this Weaver-less stretch of the season.