The Angels received mix news on the pitching injury front today, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register was among those to report (Twitter links). Righty Nick Tropeano will undergo Tommy John surgery, as had been expected, while fellow right-hander Garrett Richards continues to show enough positive progress that he’ll hold off on having the same procedure.
Tropeano was recently diagnosed with a fairly significant tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. While there was at least some thought given to a PRP and stem cell treatment similar to that undertaken by both Richards and lefty Andrew Heaney, the decision was made in fairly short order to go ahead with a UCL replacement (as ultimately proved necessary for Heaney).
The surgery puts an end to what had been a promising campaign for the 25-year-old. He recorded solid results in 2015, but opened the year at Triple-A. Upon returning to the majors, Tropeano posted 68 1/3 innings of 3.56 ERA pitching, with 9.0 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. ERA estimators weren’t as high on his performance — he was homer-prone and benefited from a 91.1% strand rate — but he was generating a strong 12.5% swinging strike rate and seemed well on his way to locking up a rotation spot for some time to come. Instead, one of his seasons of near-league-minimum salary will be spent on the DL, with the hope being that Tropeano can return for 2018 — at which time he’ll have 2.068 years of service.
Richards, on the other hand, has continued to exhibit sufficient healing that a non-surgical path remains viable. He won’t return to the majors this year, but is expected to attempt to build up to pitch up after the year — perhaps in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball. A final decision on the surgery will await the results of his efforts to throw in full game action.
Los Angeles has been hit hard with the TJ bug this year, though at least Richards holds out some hope of pitching in 2017. If he does end up having the procedure later in the year, his 2018 campaign would then come under some question — leading to a tough call as to whether the Halos ought to tender him an arb contract for the two seasons to come. Those are the team’s final two years of control over the 28-year-old, and they won’t come cheap since Richards is earning $6.425MM this year.