Filling the shoes of Garrett Richards has proved to be a daunting task.
Monday night at the Big A, Wade LeBlanc, the seven-year veteran left-hander brought up last week from Triple-A to replace the injured Richards, didn’t look to be the answer.
Richards gave up just five earned runs in three starts during the month of August; LeBlanc gave up one more than that in less than four innings.
"First time through the order was pretty smooth and then they did a good job of making adjustments," LeBlanc said after Monday’s loss. "Obviously, I didn’t. I knew the adjustments I needed to make and I just didn’t execute."
LeBlanc lasted on 3.1 innings against the Marlins and exited with a six-run deficit. He failed to get into a groove. He gave up three runs in the third inning and managed to get out with minimal damage, but the Marlins were hitting him hard, putting the ball in play.
His out pitch failed him, and he couldn’t change speeds.
"I don’t think he was rattled, I just think sometimes you just don’t get into that rhythm," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he just got away from some of things that he does well."
The Angels’ don’t have much of a choice but to let him pitch Saturday against the A’s — who have now tied the Angels for the AL West lead — the club likely will wait until the rosters expand next week to toy with some other options.
And the options are limited: A pair of highly-touted arms who have had strong seasons in Double-A and minimal Major League experience or a pair of veteran arms who have had lackluster seasons in Triple-A.
Michael Roth (11-7, 2.76 ERA) and Drew Rucinski (10-6, 3.22 ERA) are talented but unproven. Both have had their respective cups of coffee in the big leagues, with Roth having had a couple more stints than Rucinski with the big club. Both performers have received mixed reviews.
But Wolf (5-2, 4.73 ERA in Triple-A Salt Lake) and Volstad (2-1, 6.18 ERA in Triple-A), though struggling in the Pacific Coast League, boast a wealth of big-league experience.
"Between Wade and Randy Wolf and Chris Volstad, we thought that if nothing else, we had a lot of Major League experience," general manager Jerry DiPoto said last week in Boston, following the diagnosis of Richards. "We felt that if this day came, we had somebody who is competent that can go out there and start at the Major League level, had been there before and particularly, in the playoffs."
LeBlanc isn’t going to worry about getting another chance to stay in the rotation, and the Angels aren’t completely discouraged with what they saw from him.
"If they give me another shot and think that I’m the most qualified, then that’s great and I’ll go work my butt off for them," LeBlanc said.
Time to figure out new plan for the rotation isn’t something the Angels have much of. But after another heavy bullpen night, they have other more pressing matters to worry about.
"Wade had been pitching really well in Triple-A and he had a rough start tonight and you always look at your options," Scioscia said. "We’re not looking to the next start, we’re looking towards tomorrow because we have a lot of guys who have been pitching and didn’t quite get the win today.