You’d never guess it, but pitcher Mitch Stetter was among the first players to report to spring training with the Angels.
It wasn’t hard. Stetter lives about 10 minutes north of Tempe. He dropped by early in February, threw about 10 bullpen sessions and hurt his lower back in the 11th. After an initial diagnosis of a stress fracture in his vertebrae, Stetter had a CT scan that revealed a bulging disk.
He’s yet to appear in a spring training game while adhering to a prescription of rest and anti-inflammatory medications. But after throwing a bullpen today, “most likely I’ll take two days off then pitch Sunday,” Stetter said.
The Angels host the San Diego Padres on Sunday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Stetter thinks his back injury might be a result of his over-eagerness to get back on the field. Not only did he report to camp early, he only took a week off following the end of last season before beginning his off-season training. “I probably should’ve waited a month,” he said.
Stetter has pitched in 132 major-league games, but none since May 2011. He split last season between the Milwaukee Brewers’ Triple-A and Double-A affiliates. While pitching for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds last August, Stetter suffered a lower back injury and missed two weeks, but came back to pitch three games before the end of the season.
The 32-year-old is a true situational lefty, having struck out nearly twice as many southpaws (63) as he’s allowed hits to (33). Lefties have a career .194 on-base percentage against him; for righties it’s .388.
The Angels got an injury scare when left-hander Sean Burnett came down with back pain of his own, but he returned to the mound in Wednesday’s game against the Padres and reported no pain today. Scott Downs is the other left-handed reliever in camp, and both he and Burnett are on the 40-man roster. One of them might have to start the season on the disabled list if Stetter is to have any chance of making the team (unless the Angels believe Nick Maronde‘s rocky spring is not cause for concern).
At least Stetter has time.
“If he gets a chance to refine his stuff and perform at a certain level, there’s no doubt he could work his way onto our roster,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.