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OC Register: Angels’ Griffin Canning faces hitters in key step toward return

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ANAHEIM — Griffin Canning took a significant step toward returning to the Angels’ rotation on Monday.

Canning, who has been rehabbing from a lower back stress reaction, faced hitters for the equivalent of two innings. Afterward, the right-hander said he was “excited” about the latest step in his rehab.

“I wasn’t as crisp as I’d like to be, but it’s the first time I’ve faced hitters in almost a year,” Canning said.

Manager Joe Maddon said he was happy with what he saw too.

“I liked it a lot,” Maddon said. “I thought it looked free and easy. His numbers looked good according to the Trackman readings. Standing behind there, I really liked the arm speed on his changeup. He threw a couple of nice sliders. His velocity was where it’s supposed to be.”

Canning said he’s scheduled to travel to Arizona when the Angels leave on their upcoming trip. He said he’s expecting to then pitch once for Class-A Inland Empire and twice for Triple-A Salt Lake.

Canning is eligible to be activated from the 60-day injured list on June 6, and he is expecting to be ready by then.

“Assuming I’m throwing well and they feel like I can help the team, absolutely,” he said.

If the Angels could once again see Canning at his best, it would be a boost to the rotation. Canning posted a 3.99 ERA in 11 starts in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Last year, he struggled for a month, then posted a 3.83 ERA over an eight-start span. He had two bad starts around the middle of the season and was sent to Triple-A.

After just one start at Triple-A, he hurt his back. The former Santa Margarita High and UCLA star had a setback just before the start of spring training this year.

The Angels currently have a vacancy at the back of the rotation because José Suarez struggled and was sent back to Triple-A. Jhonathan Diaz pitched five scoreless innings in a spot start and then went back to Triple-A.


Jaime Barria, who was a candidate for a rotation spot before starting the season in the bullpen, picked up the victory on Sunday with two scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 1.98 through his first 13-2/3 innings.

When asked if Barria could be in line for a more significant role in the bullpen, Maddon said he’s inclined to keep Barria as the long reliever.

“I like what he’s doing right now,” Maddon said. “He’s fulfilled his role as good as anybody right now.”


Outfielder Taylor Ward, who has been one of the hottest hitters in the majors, was not in the lineup on Monday because he felt some tightness in his right hamstring when running the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday.

He said he expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

“Just a little tightness,” Ward said. “I’ve learned at this point you don’t want to play with anything. I just think it’s better to tell (the trainers) and I did. It’s good to have a day today.”


The Angels will have a special pregame ceremony on Tuesday to honor Shohei Ohtani for the awards he won last season. Fans will also receive a special Ohtani MVP Bobblehead. …

Infielder David Fletcher traveled to Philadelphia to see a specialist about his hip injury on Monday, but there was no report yet on how the examination went. Fletcher might have surgery. …

Maddon said he expected outfielder Juan Lagares to spend three weeks to a month playing in the minors before he would be ready to join the major league team. Lagares, who had been with the Angels last season, was out of a job this winter before signing a minor league deal with the Angels on Sunday.


Angels (LHP Reid Detmers, 1-1, 5.32) vs. Rays (RHP Corey Kluber, 1-1, 2.36), Tuesday, 6:38 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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