TEMPE, Ariz. — Tyler Skaggs said hello to Mark Mulder, but he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
Just as Skaggs was beginning his season with the Angels, perhaps as one of their starting pitchers, Mulder was packing up and leaving camp after seeing his comeback washed away by a torn Achilles tendon.
Baseball is like that. Careers begin and end, but the game stops for neither.
"I wish I could’ve said something to him," Skaggs said of Mulder late Sunday morning, "but he got out of here before I could even talk to him."
It happens that quickly. Mulder, 36, was returning to baseball after a five-year forced retirement, and he was a fallback option for the Angels in case either of their two new trade acquisitions — Skaggs and Hector Santiago — somehow faltered this spring. But two days into camp, Mulder’s season was over.
Before leaving, he left a message that the left-handed Skaggs can appreciate.
"I tell a lot of young guys to take advantage of these opportunities, because you can throw one pitch and be done," Mulder told writers. "It can be taken away from you in a heartbeat."
Mulder’s comeback with Angels ends with Achilles’ tendon injury
Those words were not lost of Skaggs, who is just 22 but is already taking part in his fourth big league spring training. He understands the importance of appreciating his time and taking care of himself.
"That’s why the most important thing about any spring training is just staying healthy," he said. "The longer you stay healthy and the more you get into a routine, your body gets used to doing what it’s doing."
Then he added, "It’s sad. I saw how hard he worked. To get hurt on the second day, all of us feel bad for him."
This is an important camp for Skaggs, a three-sport athlete at Santa Monica High who was drafted by the Angels in the first round in 2009 before being traded to Arizona in 2010. He is tentatively penciled in as the Angels’ No. 5 starter despite having just 13 starts over two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Coming back to the Angels was a happy circumstance for Skaggs. He knows many of the players, including center fielder Mike Trout, who was his roommate in the low minors. Despite growing up in Santa Monica, his favorite team was the Angels.
"I did not like the Dodgers," he said. "My stepbrother was a huge Angels fan, and I started watching because of him. They were really good. That’s when they won the World Series (in 2002). It had a huge impact. My favorite player was Tim Salmon. It was a dream come true to get drafted by them in the first place, but to get traded back is exciting."
Now all he has to do is stick. He has general manager Jerry Dipoto in his corner since Dipoto is the man who was in the Diamondbacks’ front office when they traded for him the first time and is the one who brought him back to Anaheim. And manager Mike Scioscia sounds positive when discussing Skaggs’ potential.
"I think he’s physically ready, and mentally his confidence will build as he goes through spring, and he’ll be a big part of our team," Scioscia said.
I tell a lot of young guys to take advantage of these opportunities, because you can throw one pitch and be done.
Skaggs had a chance last spring with Arizona, but he lost the fifth spot in a competition with Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado.
If anything, he’s learned how to pace himself. And knowing there’s a job waiting for him if he earns it gives him a measure of confidence.
"It definitely lights a spark in your workouts because you know going in you’ve got a chance to win a job," he said. "I went through the same thing last year between me and Corbin, and I think I was a little too overzealous when I came into camp last year. I think it’s only going to help me this year."
His lack of experience — seven starts last season and fewer than 40 innings pitched — won’t be held against him if he throws well this spring. The Angels expect to see progress and promise, and if they get it, they’ll be satisfied.
"I think it’s all about how you prepare yourself," Skaggs said. "You can have zero starts, but as long as you prepare yourself well enough to come into the season and you have a great team behind you, anything can happen.