TEMPE, Ariz. >> As far as Tyler Skaggs is concerned, this is the season the questions stop.
Ever since he first set foot in the majors in 2012, Skaggs has been followed by questions about his performance, his health or both.
But now, the Angels’ 25-year-old left-hander feels as good as he has in years, before the 2014 Tommy John surgery and subsequent shoulder trouble, and he has a rotation spot with his name on it.
All he has to do is go show what he believes he’s had in him all along.
“That’s why I’m excited for this year,” Skaggs said. “You guys finally get to see the work I’ve put in.”
Skaggs is one of the most significant wild cards on the Angels entire roster, arguably the player whose potential outcomes span the widest margin.
In just 41 career starts, Skaggs has shown flashes of brilliance over four- or five-start stretches, and he’s also struggled. He’s been consistently inconsistent dating to when he broke into the majors with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Last season provided a tidy microcosm of his career after he returned in July, following nearly two years lost because of Tommy John surgery.
Skaggs gave up no runs in 12 1/3 innings in his first two starts, including a dominant seven innings in his season debut against the Kansas City Royals.
Then he had a 9.68 ERA over his next four games, before finishing with a 1.83 ERA in his last four.
“His upside, with his stuff, is to be a No. 1 starter,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s got great stuff. As he harnesses it and understands putting pitches together and stays healthy, he’s going to pitch to that potential. I think he knows, at some point, all that potential and upside needs to show up. He’s working hard to make that happen this year.”
Skaggs said that one of the missing pieces last year was the mental game, which he said he’d neglected while worrying so much about the condition of his elbow and shoulder.
“Physically, I was ready to go,” he said, “but mentally I let that go by the wayside. I was so focused on getting stronger and throwing hard and being healthy, the mental aspect of the game … I just wasn’t ready for it. I was still thinking about mechanics.”
Now, he’s ready to put it all together, but there will be one more link to his health that will linger: his innings. Although the Angels aren’t publicly placing any sort of innings limit on Skaggs, Scioscia conceded that “common sense says he won’t be stretched out to 210 innings this year.”
Skaggs threw 113 innings in 2014 before hurting his elbow. He didn’t pitch at all in 2015 and threw just 89 innings last year.
“At some point a young pitcher needs to jump off that ledge and climb to a higher ledge,” Scioscia said. “If he’s healthy he should be able to push it forward and get closer to where a full workload would be.”
Skaggs sounds ready to jump, if the Angels will let him.
“I’m not going to put a limit on myself,” Skaggs said. “I’m just going to say I want the ball every fifth day and it’s up to the team. If they feel I’m getting tired or if they feel they need to skip a start for me, it’s up to them. I support their decision. But I want to win. I want to show these guys that I’m the guy.”
Which is about being healthy, durable and effective.
Now is the year.
“I’m just going out and being confident,” Skaggs said. “Confidence is the key. If you are a confident pitcher, you are going to be good. If you aren’t a confident pitcher, you aren’t. That’s the moral of the story.”
Garrett Richards threw his first live batting practice of the spring on Sunday, without incident. The next test for Richards will come when he makes his Cactus League debut, most likely next weekend. Richards is coming back from a damaged ulnar collateral ligament, for which he underwent stem-cell therapy instead of Tommy John surgery. ... The Angels’ everyday players who didn’t play in the first two games — Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Cameron Maybin — are expected to make their Cactus League debuts on Monday. Albert Pujols, who is rehabbing from foot surgery, won’t be ready to play until later in he spring. …
Shane Robinson has missed a couple days with a calf problem, but he is expected to be OK by Monday, Scioscia said.
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