The Angels will be without their best pitcher for the next month and maybe beyond.
The team announced Tuesday that right-hander Jered Weaver broke his left elbow while trying to get out of the way of a line drive in Sunday’s game against the Texas Rangers. Weaver was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Sunday and right-hander Dane De La Rosa was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake.
The non-displaced radial head fracture will cost Weaver at least four weeks.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website, the injury can occur when, in trying to break one’s fall, the force of the fall travels up the lower forearm bones and fractures the smaller bone (radius) in the forearm.
The Angels have no way of replacing Weaver within the organization; the right-hander has won more games since 2007 (91) than all but three American League pitchers. Recalling De La Rosa, who has never started a major-league game, indicates that the team will promote one of its relievers — Jerome Williams or Garrett Richards — to a starting role while Weaver is out.
Richards, 24, was the Angels’ best pitcher in spring training, going 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA, two walks and 12 strikeouts in 18 ⅔ innings. He started three spring games and made three relief appearances.
Williams, 31, had a miserable spring. In six appearances (three starts) he went 1-1 with an 8.59 ERA while allowing 31 hits in 14 ⅔ innings.
Williams didn’t allow a run in two innings Sunday, his first appearance of the regular season. Richards has allowed one run in 4 ⅓ innings spanning four appearances out of the bullpen.
The Angels could also turn outside the organization for help. The Colorado Rockies recently acquired veteran right-hander Aaron Harang from the Dodgers and designated him for assignment while seeking a trading partner. However, Harang has never been a reliever in his career, leaving the potential question of where he would pitch once Weaver becomes healthy.
The Dodgers still have a pair of extra arms with starting experience in left-handers Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly.
Cost is a concern with all three pitchers. Harang was set to make $7 million this year with a 2014 contract option or a $2 million buyout. Capuano is owed $6 million this season, with an option for 2014 or a $1 million buyout. Lilly makes $13.2 million this year, the final year of his contract, and the Angels would probably ask the Dodgers to take on part of that sum to avoid incurring baseball’s competitive balance tax.
The Angels are reportedly within roughly $6 million of incurring the so-called “luxury tax,” which penalizes teams 22.5 percent on every dollar spent above $178 million.
Weaver is 0-1 with a 4.91 earned-run average this season in two starts this season spanning 11 innings. He has made no fewer than 28 starts a year since 2007, his first full big-league season. Weaver’s 20 wins last season led the American League, while his 20-5 record, 2.81 ERA and league-leading 7.0 hits per nine innings allowed him to finish third in Cy Young Award voting.
In 2011, Weaver went 18-8 and finished second in Cy Young balloting.
His next start was scheduled for Saturday against the Houston Astros. The injury comes at a particularly unfortunate time in the schedule, as the Angels only have one off-day between now and May 5, the date four weeks from the time of Weaver’s injury. There’s an off-day on May 6 before the Angels begin a three-game series in Houston.
The Angels’ first home game of the season is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight against the Oakland A’s.
De La Rosa will wear number 65.