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OC Register: Angels’ Griffin Canning set to return to a major-league mound for first time in 649 days


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ANAHEIM — Griffin Canning’s journey is about to come to an end.

The Angels’ right-hander will start on Wednesday afternoon, his first time pitching in the majors since July 2, 2021, a span of 649 days.

“Obviously I’m excited,” Canning said on Tuesday. “I’m just looking forward to getting back out there and competing and helping the team win any way I can.”

Canning, who is a month shy of his 27th birthday, has been through a series of ups and downs in the six years since the Angels drafted him out of UCLA with their second-round pick.

He was arguably the best pitcher on their major league staff at times during his rookie season in 2019, and he also posted a 3.99 ERA and won a Gold Glove in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

But Canning’s back began to bother him in May 2021. He said he first felt some discomfort in his May 14 start at Boston, which was his third straight game allowing two runs or fewer.

Just when it seemed like he was figuring out some things, his performance began to deteriorate as he dealt with what was eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture in his lower back.

Canning missed the rest of the 2021 season, and he had a setback just before the start of spring training in 2022, leading to more time on the shelf. At one point the Angels and Canning faced a decision whether surgery was the answer.

They opted to continue rehab.

Canning finally started throwing again last fall, and he said since then he’s had no issues with his back.

He started doing Pilates and found the right routine to maintain his back.

“I just feel like I know myself a little bit better,” Canning said. “I know my body. I know if I am feeling something in certain areas, I kind of know how to get myself back on track and my recovery methods and stuff like that.”

Once Canning started pitching in spring training, he felt good and the results were encouraging. He allowed two earned runs in 13-2/3 innings in exhibition games, with 13 strikeouts and three walks. His fastball was 94-95 mph, which is up from his 93.5 mph average in 2021.

“I think this is just who I am,” Canning said. “I feel like myself and kind of can go out there and just focus on executing pitches. I’m really excited.”

So are his teammates, most notably left-hander Patrick Sandoval. Sandoval (Mission Viejo High) and Canning (Santa Margarita High) are both local products who work out together year-round.

“Seeing him in spring, that was Griff right there,” Sandoval said. “Nasty. Insane stuff with everything. Just a really (expletive) good pitcher. It’s really exciting. I’m really excited for him, because of all the work that he’s put in come to life.”

Manager Phil Nevin said there will be no special pitch limitations on Canning.

“I wouldn’t say 100 is out of reach,” Nevin said. “It just depends how the game goes.”

SUAREZ FOLLOW-UP

Left-hander José Suarez gave up four runs on 10 hits on Monday night, his second straight start with poor results this season. After the game, Nevin said Suarez’s pitches were “scattered” and he “has got to get better.”

A day later, though, Nevin said a closer look at his performance further encouraged him that Suarez has not been as bad as numbers.

“Shape-wise, pitch selection-wise, what his balls were doing when it left his hand, it all was better than last year,” Nevin said. “The location wasn’t as bad as I thought.”

Nevin referred to the average exit velocity on the hits Suarez allowed. Excluding the bunt, it was 85.7 mph.

Suarez will get a little extra time before his next start because the Angels will keep Shohei Ohtani on schedule and have him pitch on Monday in Boston. Suarez, or Canning, could then pitch on Tuesday in New York.

NOTES

Third baseman Anthony Rendon returned to the Angels’ lineup on Tuesday after missing Monday’s game with a sore left shoulder. Rendon had been hit by a pitch in the 10th inning of Sunday’s game. …

Sandoval, Tyler Anderson and Reid Detmers are scheduled to start the first three games of the four-game series this weekend in Boston. …

Nevin said the Angels still haven’t decided what roster move they will make to clear a spot for Canning on Wednesday. They currently have 14 pitchers, which is more than the limit of 13 because Ohtani counts as a two-way player. The only relievers with options are Jimmy Herget and Andrew Wantz. The Angels also could put someone on the injured list.

UP NEXT

Angels (RHP Griffin Canning, first start) vs. Nationals (LHP MackKenzie Gore, 2-0, 2.38 ERA), Wednesday, 1:07 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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