Angels reliever Keynan Middleton is going on the 10-day DL after being diagnosed with damage to his ulnar collateral ligament, as MLB.com’s Maria Guardado was among those to report (Twitter links). He is headed for a second opinion.
Clearly, that’s unwelcome news for the 24-year-old righty. It’s not known at this point just how severe the damage is; it seems team and player are looking to gather information before deciding upon a course of treatment. In the most serious cases, of course, UCL injuries require extensive surgery (most famously, the Tommy John procedure) that comes with upwards of a year of rehab.
As things stand, then, we simply don’t know how long Middleton will be sidelined. Given that there’s a problem with the ligament, though, even the most optimistic scenario will involve a fairly lengthy DL stint. And the risk of the rest-and-rehab — which is sometimes accompanied by stem cell and/or platelet-rich plasma treatment — is that the player may end up delaying his procedure and thus also his ultimate point of return.
Given the stakes, the Angels and Middleton will understandably weigh the decision carefully. He had become firmly ensconced in the team’s bullpen hierarchy, even locking up six saves this year for the Halos. Even losing a few months of work from Middleton will increase the pressure on other arms in the Los Angeles pen.
Today’s news comes after Middleton had turned in 17 2/3 innings of 2.04 ERA pitching to open the season. Of course, there were already some signs of concern. Middleton was doling out a few too many free passes (4.6 per nine) and had seen his swinging-strike rate plummet from an eye-opening 16.6% in 2017 down to 9.5% to begin the current year.
While the Angels are no doubt aware that the young hurler still has a ways to go to prove he’s a reliable late-inning force, the team surely would have preferred to continue giving him that opportunity. Now, the Halos’ roster’s already-unimposing high-leverage mix appears all the more in need of buttressing at the trade deadline. With the club off to a strong start but facing a tough year-long fight for the postseason, it would not be surprising at all to see GM Billy Eppler focus on adding arms this summer.