Angels right-hander Griffin Canning has been cleared to begin a throwing program, general manager Billy Eppler announced to reporters Wednesday (Twitter link via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register). Barring setbacks, he could be ready to throw off a mound at month’s end.
Canning, 23, was shut down early in camp after an MRI revealed “chronic changes” to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in addition to “acute irritation” in the joint. However, while the initial diagnosis was ominous, Canning was eventually cleared of any tearing to his ligament and received a recommendation for a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat the issue. That step came after getting a second opinion from non-Angels personnel, and the injection was administered just under a month ago.
Angels fans have been witness to a calamitous array of injuries on the pitching staff in recent years, and many are holding their breath with regard to Canning — hoping for the best but fearing a major surgery is in the offing. For the time being, that doesn’t appear to be in the cards, and the indefinite suspension of play will give the talented young Canning some additional time to work back to health.
A second-round pick by the Angels in 2017, Canning entered the 2019 campaign ranked among baseball’s 100 best prospects and made his Major League debut on April 30 after breezing through three starts in Triple-A to open the season (one run with a 17-to-2 K/BB ratio in 16 innings). He’d stick in the big leagues for the long haul, tallying 90 1/3 innings over 18 appearances (17 starts) while compiling a 4.58 ERA with averages of 9.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 1.4 HR/9. It may not have been the dominant debut for which many fans had hoped, but Canning held his own in the most hitter-friendly season in recent history, and his 13.8 percent swinging-strike rate and 32 percent opponents’ chase rate are both encouraging signs moving forward.
The Angels, of course, never added the top-of-the-rotation arm they coveted in the 2019-20 offseason, which makes a step forward from a healthy Canning all the more crucial to the club if they can get it. He and Shohei Ohtani could now have time to work themselves into mound form before a theoretical new Opening Day, which would allow the Halos to pencil that duo in alongside Andrew Heaney and newcomers Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy in the 2020 rotation.