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OC Register: Angels’ Tyler Skaggs looks to erase a forgettable finish after a great start last year


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TEMPE, Ariz. — When Tyler Skaggs saw his locker placement at Tempe Diablo Stadium, he immediately texted a picture to Jered Weaver and Garrett Richards.

The locker that had belonged to Weaver and then Richards — the one that controls the clubhouse music — now belongs to Skaggs.

“It’s the passing of the torch,” Skaggs said with a smile. “It’s maybe just because it’s my fifth year here. The fact that I’m the longest tenured pitcher here is crazy to think about. It’s definitely different. It’s exciting. It’s a challenge.”

The locker assignment may simply be a matter of seniority, but Skaggs is nonetheless primed to take over the mantle as the leader of the Angels’ rotation.

He is 27, just staring his prime, and doing so after a year in which he showed for half a season what he and his supporters always believed he could be.

Last June 15, Skaggs had a 2.81 ERA after his 14th start of the season. He was headed toward a potential spot in the All-Star Game. His new changeup had proven to be a weapon, to go with his signature curve ball.

When the season ended, though, Skaggs would have to live with a 4.02 ERA on the back of his baseball card forever.

“Honestly, the last month and a half of the season left such a bad taste in my mouth from everything,” he said. “The way people viewed me. I don’t want to talk much about last year, but it left a salty taste in my mouth and I’m out to show everybody that’s not who I am. I’m excited to regain what I captured the first half of last season and maintain that.”

What happened was a weight room incident followed by what Skaggs admitted was a lapse in judgment. He said he “tried to be a hero.”

Working out in the weight room, Skaggs tweaked his groin. Instead of going on the disabled list for a few weeks to let it heal completely, Skaggs simply had his next start pushed back a few days.

At that time in mid June the Angels had just seen Shohei Ohtani and Richards both go on the disabled list in the previous week. Skaggs was pitching well and wanted to keep going.

However, as he tried to pitch through the injury, it didn’t heal, and he would eventually have back-to-back nightmare games, in which he allowed 17 runs in 6-2/3 innings.

At that point, in mid August and with the Angels out of it, Skaggs took off a month to get well, something he admitted later he should have done in the first place.

It was the second straight season that Skaggs had fallen victim to muscular injuries, including missing half of 2017 with an oblique strain. He’s been free of any arm issues since July 2016, when he returned from Tommy John surgery.

In order to help with the rest of his body, Skaggs spent his winter with a new workout routine, including yoga. He hopes this will make him more flexible and less prone to those type of injuries. He also traveled to Florida to work with fitness guru Eric Cressey.

As for pitching, Skaggs has continued to refine the changeup. He’s also all-in on the technology the Angels have started using to help optimize their performances. He’s been working with pitching coach Doug White in Arizona for three weeks, including two weeks before spring training even began.

“I wanted to get things really locked in,” he said.

Manager Brad Ausmus, who was a special assistant to general manager Billy Eppler last season, watched Skaggs begin to emerge last season, and he believes 2019 could be the next step.

“I actually think he can be an All-Star, quite frankly,” Ausmus said. “I think he’s got that type of ability. He showed flashes of it last year. That’s part of the reason why I think he can actually do it.”

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12 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

"The last month and a half of the season left such a bad taste in my mouth from everything,” he said. “The way people viewed me. I don’t want to talk much about last year, but it left a salty taste in my mouth and I’m out to show everybody that’s not who I am. I’m excited to regain what I captured the first half of last season and maintain that.”

What happened was a weight room incident followed by what Skaggs admitted was a lapse in judgment.

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