ANAHEIM — As Jesse Chavez silently plugged away on his ritual crossword puzzle, Tyler Skaggs was all smiles sitting at his locker nearby, a changing of the guard disguised as a typical Wednesday afternoon in the Angels’ clubhouse.
Skaggs will rejoin the starting rotation when he is activated from the disabled list prior to Saturday’s game against the Oakland A’s. Chavez will move to the bullpen, a role he’s never held as an Angel.
Manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday that Chavez was disappointed when he was told of the switch. The 33-year-old right-hander might have made the decision simple by pitching to a 5.43 earned-run average in 22 starts. He hasn’t posted an ERA that high in a full season since 2012.
Sunday in Toronto, Chavez allowed seven hits and four runs in a no-decision against the Blue Jays. He only completed seven innings four times in 22 starts.
The reason for all those early exits was simple. Chavez’s numbers skewed upward every time he faced the same hitter in a game. He held opponents to a .743 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) the first time through the order. That figure rose to .856 the second time through the order and .973 the third time through.
Maybe that’s why the Angels were willing, at least temporarily, to make the switch even though Chavez has historically been better as a starter (4.45 ERA, 1.364 WHIP) than a reliever (4.96 ERA, 1.424 WHIP) over 10 major league seasons. In the bullpen, he is unlikely to face any hitter more than twice in a game.
“Especially with David (Hernandez, who was traded to Arizona on Monday) not being in the ’pen, we’re going to bridge those innings with a lot of guys,” Scioscia said. “Jesse can certainly be in the mix to help us down there.”
This could be the first of several similar decisions facing the Angels in August. Matt Shoemaker (nerve issue in elbow) threw a bullpen session Wednesday, an important step as he progresses toward his first competitive game in nearly a month. Right-hander Andrew Heaney (Tommy John surgery) pitched five innings for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, putting him in position to rejoin the Angels’ rotation possibly this month.
The return of those two right-handers – plus Alex Meyer (shoulder), who expects to play catch tomorrow – would crunch a rotation that now includes Skaggs, J.C. Ramirez, Ricky Nolasco, Parker Bridwell and Troy Scribner.
Scioscia said there was no thought of temporarily deploying six starters this week. Their…