Angels RHP Canning has setback, won’t be ready for opener

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Los Angeles Angels right-hander Griffin Canning won’t be ready for opening day after a setback in his recovery from a back injury.

Canning said Wednesday the setback occurred a few weeks ago. The Orange County native and UCLA product was a strong candidate for the sixth spot in the Angels’ rotation this spring.

“They basically said I reaggravated it,” Canning said. “I just have to take a couple of steps back in my rehab. … I had progressed. I was up to 100%, fully cleared and everything, but it’s part of it. I understand that. It’s not always going to be a perfect recovery.”

Canning hopes to begin playing catch later this week, but he won’t throw off a mound for four weeks, general manager Perry Minasian said. The Angels moved him to the 60-day injured list later Wednesday.

Canning’s latest injury is another complication for the Angels as they attempt to settle on a pitching staff for the new season. Minasian said he isn’t done looking for outside talent to bolster a staff that was 22nd in the majors in ERA and 24th in WHIP last season, the latest in a long series of underwhelming mound performances during the Halos’ seven-year playoff drought.

“We like where we’re at,” Minasian said. “Now, can we get better? Absolutely. There’s areas we can improve. Rotation is a spot we’d like to improve. Bullpen is still an area we’d like to improve. Offensively and defensively, we’d like to improve in those spots, and we’re expecting some internal improvement, too.”

The Angels’ rotation will be headlined by AL MVP Shohei Ohtani and newcomer Noah Syndergaard. Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez and newcomer Michael Lorenzen also have spots locked down, but the sixth starter is now likely to be either Jaime Barria or youngster Reid Detmers unless Minasian makes a move.

The perpetually pitching-poor Angels haven’t added significant mound talent since the conclusion of the lockout, although they acquired Syndergaard, Lorenzen and top reliever Aaron Loup before the lockout. Minasian understands some fans’ frustration with the Angels standing pat while the likes of Carlos Rodon, Yusei Kikuchi, Chris Bassitt and Sonny Gray end up elsewhere.

“I understand when you’re watching and you’re hoping and expecting things to happen quick,” Minasian said. “All I can say is I feel like we’ve improved from where we were last year. I think if you asked the guys in the locker room, I think they would say the same thing. … We have a lot of other arms that we really like, but we’re still on the hunt.”

Canning went 5-4 with a 5.60 ERA last season before getting sent to the minors in early July. Soon afterward, the 2020 Gold Glove winner was declared out for the season with a stress fracture in his lower back.

“Things like that happen, and you have to have the depth to cover it, and I think we do,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I have a lot of faith in Griff’s ability. I’m looking for him to get well (and) get on a nice little consistent roll.”

Canning is among the few homegrown pitchers to make a significant impact in recent years on the Angels, although Sandoval — another Orange County native who was acquired by trade before he reached the majors — and Suarez have also bucked that sorry history in the last two seasons.

Los Angeles bolstered its pitching staff in another way Wednesday by re-signing backup catcher Kurt Suzuki to a $1.75 million, one-year deal, bringing back the 38-year-old mentor to several Angels pitchers.

The Angels also recently reached a minor league deal with catcher Austin Romine, putting him behind the plate along with starter Max Stassi for spring training and beyond.

Later Wednesday, the Angels signed veteran infielder Matt Duffy to a $1.5 million, one-year contract.

Duffy, a Long Beach native, batted .287 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 97 games last season for the Cubs while playing four infield positions and left field for his third major league club. The Angels haven’t chosen a starting shortstop, and Duffy could be a depth piece or a replacement for David Fletcher at second base if Fletcher moves to shortstop.

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