Alexander: A night to honor Angels’ Tyler Skaggs becomes even more special

  • Felix Pena #45 of the Los Angeles Angels jumps into the arms of catcher Dustin Garneau #13 as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Felix Pena #64 of the Los Angeles Angels gets the final out as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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  • Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Felix Pena, right, celebrates with catcher Dustin Garneau after the Angels threw a combined no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners during a baseball game Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. Taylor Cole pitched the first two innings. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Felix Pena #64 of the Los Angeles Angels jumps into the arms of catcher Dustin Garneau #13 as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Angels pitcher Felix Pena jumps into the arms of catcher Dustin Garneau after the final out of the team’s combined no-hitter in a 13-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night at Angel Stadium. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Teammates wearing #45 mobbed Felix Pena #45 of the Los Angeles Angels after getting the final out as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Teammates wearing #45 mobbed Felix Pena #45 of the Los Angeles Angels after getting the final out as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Teammates wearing #45 mobbed Felix Pena #45 of the Los Angeles Angels after getting the final out as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Felix Pena, second from left, is congratulated by teammates after he finished off a combined no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners during a baseball game Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. Taylor Cole pitched the first two innings. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Angels pitcher Felix Pena, center, looks on after every member of the team places their No. 45 Skaggs jerseys on the mound in honor of their former teammate after their 13-0, no-hit victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night at Angel Stadium. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Angels placed their jerseys on the mound in honor of Tyler Skaggs as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Felix Pena, right, hugs starter Taylor Cole after they threw a combined-no hitter against the Seattle Mariners during a baseball game Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. The Angels won 13-0. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Taylor Cole, left, and relief pitcher Felix Pena, right, alongside Pena’s interpreter, middle, acknowledge the crowd’s applause after a combined no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners during a baseball game Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. The Angels won 13-0. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Fans holds of signs during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Felix Pena #64 of the Los Angeles Angels as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Felix Pena #64 of the Los Angeles Angels gets the final out as the Los Angeles Angels throw a combined no-hitter and defat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 during a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Members of Tyler Skaggs’ family, including wife, Carli, left; mother, Debbie, second from left; and stepfather, Dan Ramos, third from left, join in a moment of silence in Tyler’s honor before the Los Angeles Angels’ baseball game against the Seattle Mariners Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • The late Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ mother, Debbie, center in red, throws the game’s ceremonial first pitch, at a baseball game between the Angels and the Seattle Mariners on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus, facing camera, hugs the late pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ mother, Debbie, before the team’s baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Debbie Skaggs, center left, mother of the late pitcher Tyler Skaggs, gets a hug from Los Angeles Angels outfielder Andrew Heaney before the Angels’ baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • A moment of silence during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Members of the Los Angeles Angels observe a moment of silence for teammate Tyler Skaggs, before a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Members of the Los Angeles Angels observe a moment of silence for teammate Tyler Skaggs before the team’s baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Fans hold of signs during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • ANAHEIM, CA – JULY 12: Tyler Skaggs wife Carli Skaggs, and his mother Debbie Hetman stand next to step father Dan Ramos during the National Anthem before the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

  • The players of both teams line up during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • The players of both teams line up during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Skaggs, mother of Tyler Skaggs holds Tyler Skaggs wife, Carli as father Dan Ramos, right, wipes his face during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Members of the Los Angeles Angels wear No. 45 in honor of teammate Tyler Skaggs, who died earlier this month, during the team’s baseball game against the Seattle Mariners on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • A framed jersey of Tyler Skaggs on the pitching mound during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • A framed jersey of Tyler Skaggs on the pitching mound during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Hetman, mother of Tyler Skaggs hugs team members during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Hetman, mother of Tyler Skaggs hugs team members during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Hetman, Tyler Skaggs’ mother, hugs Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney as stepfather Dan Ramos, left, and widow of Tyler Skaggs Carli, right look on during a tribute to pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Fans look on during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Danny Hetman (stepfather) , left, with Debbie Skaggs (Mother), second from left, wife Carli Skaggs, catcher Andrew Heaney #45 of the Los Angeles Angels and Garret Hetman, right, during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Hetman, mother of Tyler looks on as stepfather Dan Ramos marks in the dirt before throwing out the ceremonial pitch during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Hetman, mother of Tyler looks mark in the dirt before throwing out the ceremonial pitch during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Skaggs, mother of Tyler throws out the ceremonial pitch during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Hetman, mother of Tyler Skaggs holds Tyler Skaggs wife, Carli as father Danny Hetman, right, wipes his face during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Debbie Hetman, mother of Tyler looks to the sky as stepson Garret Hetman reacts after throwing out the ceremonial pitch during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Fans hold of signs during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • ANAHEIM, CA – JULY 12: Mike Trout #45 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. All the Angels players wore Tyler Skaggs jersey #45 to honor him after his July 1 death. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

  • Shohei Ohtani #45 of the Los Angeles Angels singles against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Shohei Ohtani #45 of the Los Angeles Angels high fives teammate Mike Trout #45 after scoring against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Shohei Ohtani #45 of the Los Angeles Angels scores on a single by teammate Andrelton Simmons (not pictured) against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Shohei Ohtani #45 of the Los Angeles Angels singles against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Mike Trout #45 of the Los Angeles Angels high fives teammates after hitting a two run home run against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Mike Trout #45 of the Los Angeles Angels looks toward the scoreboard after hitting a two run home run against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Andrelton Simmons #45 of the Los Angeles Angels doubles against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • David Fletcher #45 of the Los Angeles Angels singles against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Mike Leake #8 of the Seattle Mariners throws to the plate against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Taylor Cole #45 of the Los Angeles Angels throws to the plate against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Starting pitcher Taylor Cole #45 of the Los Angeles Angels takes a moment prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Andrelton Simmons #45 of the Los Angeles Angels prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Mike Trout #45 of the Los Angeles Angels prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Players and coaches hug as Tommy La Stella sits on the bench next to a jersey of Tyler Skaggs hangs in the dugout during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Brad Ausmus, center, of the Los Angeles Angels with coaches Mike Gallego, left, and Jesus Feliciano, right, sit next to a framed jersey of Tyler Skaggs during a tribute for pitcher Tyler Skaggs who passed away on On July 1, 2019 prior to a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners at Anaheim Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Angels center fielder Mike Trout stands in front of the sign on the outfield wall that honors former Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who passed away on July 1. Trout kick-started their 13-0 victory over the Mariners on Friday night with a towering home run, then watched two of his teammates combine on the team’s first no-hitter since 2012. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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ANAHEIM — Closure can be elusive. For the Angels, who lost teammate Tyler Skaggs a little less than two weeks ago, it will come slowly, haltingly, maybe uneasily, and probably at a different pace for each member of the organization.

But there are nights like Friday, the night before Skaggs would have turned 28, when in honoring their teammate the Angels delivered another of those evenings at the ballpark that you just don’t expect.

It was the first game after the All-Star break, and their first home game since Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room two Mondays ago, before the subsequently-postponed first game of a road trip in Texas.

To commemorate? They scored seven runs in the first inning, 13 for the game, and pitchers Taylor Cole and Felix Peña combined on the franchise’s second combined no-hitter, a 13-0 victory over Seattle.

Were there greater forces at work?

“You can’t make this stuff up,” All-Star center fielder Mike Trout said. “We scored seven runs in the first, ended with 13. Tyler’s birthday is 7-13. Thirteen runs, thirteen hits. … Tonight was in honor of him. He was looking over us tonight, and he’s probably up there sayin’ we’re nasty.”

That phrase, of course, became Skaggs’ trademark. It apparently will be the Angels’ motto going forward.

It was a night packed with emotion, from the moments Angels players entered the ballpark – maybe walking past the impromptu shrine, with flowers and caps and signs and candles and baseballs, that fans set up outside the home plate gate – to the moments following the game when the uniformed personnel, all of whom wore “SKAGGS 45” jerseys, took them off and laid them on the pitcher’s mound.

The decision to wear the jerseys was made a week ago. Laying them on the mound was more spur of the moment, thought up by hitting coach Jeremy Reed and passed on to Justin Upton and then Trout and from there to the rest of the team.

The emotions remain raw. Skaggs’ locker in the Angels clubhouse remains intact, uniforms and sweatshirts, socks and shoes and his glove neatly placed. A sign saying, yes, “We’re Nasty” adorns the wall opposite the long row of cubicles.

Skaggs’ influence and memory will be felt in myriad other ways.

“I catch myself thinking about him all the time, honestly,” injured infielder Zack Cozart said. “It kind of haunts me because it’s just so sudden and tragic … 45 will always be in my mind. To be honest, I think with all the guys here that’s how it’s gonna be.

“He’s the life of the team, honestly. He’s the music guy, he’s pumping everybody up. I went to Ole Miss, and him and (Andrew) Heaney used to have a thing with me where in a country voice they’d go ‘Hotty Toddy,’ because that’s the slogan at Ole Miss. When you’re around guys all the time, you have little things like that. Now every time I hear ‘Hotty Toddy,’ I’ll be thinking about Tyler.”

Note that Cozart referred to Skaggs in the present tense. That will happen for a while, too.

The pregame ceremony, with a tribute video and an emotional first pitch by his mom, Debbie, a former softball ace – yeah, you’d better believe she threw a perfect strike – was just a prelude.

Example: Trout touched off that seven-run first inning (and a 3-for-4, six-RBI night) with a two-run home run, a 454-foot rocket to dead center, on the first pitch from Mike Leake. He rarely swings at the first pitch.

“Like I said, he’s watching over everybody,” Trout said.

The night was cathartic. But even when the games aren’t as rousing as this one was, the night after night nature of baseball is therapeutic in its own way, normalcy through repetition.

“The fact that the game distracts them probably eased the pain a little bit,” Manager Brad Ausmus said. “We all went our separate ways at the All-Star break; again, another distraction. We came back here, and I walked into the ballpark today and saw the flowers and the signs out front. That was kind of special.”

But true healing will take time, and probably a lot of it, depending on the individual. More than likely, that ache in the heart never really goes away, but over time you learn to manage it.

“I think it’s going to be tough this season” to truly get back to normal, Trout said. “Obviously we’re going to remember him always. It just seems like everything we do at the stadium, he always comes up. You walk by his locker every day and you miss that fun. Every time you’d go up to him he had that smirk on his face, either in a sarcastic way, jokingly, or just trying to put a smile on your face.

“It’s going to be with us for sure, obviously the rest of the time I play, but more the rest of the season because it’s here. We’re always going to be thinking about it, so it’s always going to be emotional. It doesn’t matter. It’s different for everybody, and it’s just something we’re going to have to get through.”

This wasn’t just a body blow for players and coaches. General Manager Billy Eppler, who has his own priorities and responsibilities as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, noted that he’s found it hard to maintain focus.

“It’s not that easy of a plug-and-play,” he said. “I’ll find myself sometimes in mid-conversation and just kind of drift for a second or two, or 10 seconds, or whatever it is. I mean, this stuff hits people just randomly.”

But, he said, if there is a member of the organization who can help people get through this, it is their best player.

“I’m going to repeat a line that’s been said a little bit: His shoulders are broad because he carries around a lot,” Eppler said. “This young man has just continued to be there for everybody. He’s an MVP, and he’s also a shoulder to cry on or to cry with. He’s a best friend. He’s a husband, he’s a son, he’s a teammate.”

Being the team spokesman, in such trying circumstances, likely has been harder than anything Trout has ever had to deal with on a baseball field.

But he has shown us, again, that there are many ways to be an MVP.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

Angel in the outfield. pic.twitter.com/iYoPlBxKYx

— MLB (@MLB) July 13, 2019

For Tyler. pic.twitter.com/MczHyHQxu5

— MLB (@MLB) July 13, 2019

Mike Trout homered on the first pitch he saw, wearing Tyler Skaggs’ No. 45 👏

(via @Angels)pic.twitter.com/CaNRlXlrKj

— ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2019

A no-no just hours before what would have been Tyler Skaggs’ 28th birthday.

You can’t script this. For Tyler. pic.twitter.com/wxiXIsYlfE

— MLB (@MLB) July 13, 2019

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Alexander: Angels’ Keynan Middleton, and his balky elbow, are part of a trend

ANAHEIM — Dodgers chairman Mark Walter put it succinctly a few years ago during a discussion about signing pitchers to long-term contracts.

“Pitchers break,” he said.

The parade of breakage continues.

Since spring training began in February, 12 pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery. Some were prospects, others (including the Angels’ JC Ramirez, the Padres’ Dinelson Lamet, and Arizona’s Taijuan Walker) are big leaguers.

Are we about to see a 13th name on that list?

The Angels learned Monday that an MRI of reliever Keynan Middleton’s right elbow showed “damage” to his ulnar collateral ligament. Their announcement was purposely vague, noting that Middleton would get a second opinion “in the near future.”

But “damage” to the UCL is never good. The question is the severity, and whether stem cell therapy might be a viable alternative to the ligament reconstruction procedure.

Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney both faced the same choice in May, 2016. Both opted for the therapy in which stem cells were injected into the area.

Richards’ therapy worked, and he was back on the mound by the start of spring training in 2017. Heaney’s didn’t. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2016 and was out until last August.

The aforementioned Ramirez tried the same tack when he was hurt last August, but he had to shut it down and have the surgery last month.

Yet it’s probably a risk worth taking, because if Middleton has the surgery he’d be out for most or all of 2019 anyway.

It is not just an Angels trend, although starters Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano and Heaney have all gone through what Ramirez is enduring now and what might be in Middleton’s future. It is a baseball trend.

This is a telling statistic: From Dr. Frank Jobe’s pioneering operation on John in July 1974 through 1989, just 11 professional pitchers and two position players underwent the procedure.

There were 47 patients in the 1990s, 68 from 2000 through 2005, 61 from 2005 through 2010 … and 242 this decade, 105 since 2014.

Most have been pitchers, but not all. When the Dodgers’ Corey Seager underwent the operation this month, he was the third position player this year and eighth in the last five years.

Now balance those numbers with the reality that pitchers are treated far more gingerly today than ever before, with strict adherence to pitch counts. The night in the 1981 World Series when Fernando Valenzuela threw 150 pitches – you can look it up – in a complete-game victory? That’s nearly two starts for some pitchers today.

And that’s not a bad thing at all. Pitching is an unnatural motion, and the stress involved in throwing a baseball with any velocity – and its deleterious effect over time – is understood far better now than it was then.

“Pitching a softball is the way your arm was made to throw,” John said in a 2017 interview. “Your arm was made to go underneath and not go over the top. You’re going against the natural motion of the shoulder, throwing the baseball.”

And what of those relievers of yore who would pitch multiple innings for saves, or those starters who would make 35 or 40 starts and complete 20 to 25 of them?

“This is how they were trained,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Monday. “… I don’t know if any pitcher was pushed past what they were capable of, but it certainly was a different mindset to handling your starters and your bullpen 40 years ago.

“… Before I came up in 1980, and I think all the way through probably the mid-70s, it was a four-man (rotation) and that was it.”

He paused.

“A lot of them had really short careers, too,” he added. “Some didn’t. Some kept going.”

Much of the wear and tear takes place before a player even signs a contract now, because the innings and pitches pile up for young pitchers in the summer, in travel ball and showcase events. But more often than not, Scioscia said, an organization signing a pitcher has sufficient information about his previous usage and can manage his workload accordingly.

That’s not always enough to prevent injury. But here’s the other modern baseball reality: There is pitching life, and sometimes plenty of it, after Tommy John surgery.

One example was on the mound Monday night for the Angels. Heaney, in his sixth start of 2017, was brilliant for eight innings against Houston, holding the defending champs to a run and four hits and striking out 10 on exactly 100 pitches.

Middleton might have been downcast after hearing his injury report Monday, but back stories like that should keep him going. He is, after all, only 24.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

Read more about Alexander: Angels’ Keynan Middleton, and his balky elbow, are part of a trend This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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