Of the many physical gifts right-hander Griffin Canning regularly flashes for the Angels, what has intrigued manager Joe Maddon most about the young starter is his athleticism.
Maddon noticed it in his first week at Angels camp. Canning, a tall and slender pitcher, moved lithely around a lower field at Tempe Diablo Stadium during fielding practice. On one such morning of early spring drills, Canning scooped a ball in front of first base with his glove and flipped it directly to the coach at the bag. He made a behind-the-back flip to first on his next turn, drawing applause from Angels teammates and personnel.
Since being drafted by the Angels in the second round out of UCLA in 2017, Canning has been viewed as a potential front-line starter for his hometown team because of his poise, polished approach and bountiful talent. His limberness, which he displayed during his successful spring debut Wednesday against the Dodgers, is another plus that should allow him to blossom in his second season in the Angels rotation.
“This guy can get really good really fast in the major leagues,” Maddon said. “It’s just going to be about how he processes the moment. [He’s] physical. Talentwise, he’s high end. He’s going to be very significant for us this year and for years to come.”
Canning, 23, is not yet expected to take on the pressures of leading the Angels’ staff. He was promoted to the big leagues after throwing 16 innings at triple A last season because of the Angels’ pitching woes. He stuck around, but he was limited to 90 1/3 innings at the major league level after elbow soreness cropped up in August.
Yet Canning was a bright spot in a rotation ravaged by injuries and the death of Tyler Skaggs. He compiled a 4.58 ERA over 18 outings and struck out 96 batters. He was proficient at curbing hard contact. He also limited hitters to a .229 average off his high-80s slider, a .184 average off his curveball and a .220 average on his changeup.
The only question Canning must address is whether he can pitch deep into a season. He has thrown 119 innings once in the last five years — in 2017, his final year at UCLA.
Canning is confident he can shoulder a heavier workload. The season-ending elbow injury did not impact his throwing program. He worked regularly through the winter with strength coach Lee Fiocchi and arrived in Arizona feeling healthy.
Unlike pitchers Jose Suarez, Patrick Sandoval, Matt Andriese and Jaime Barria, Canning is practically assured an opening-day roster spot. He just has to remain on the mound.
“I don’t think there’s any extra pressure now,” Canning said. “Joe always says, ‘Keep the pleasure greater than the pressure.’ So I don’t really feel that. I think everybody’s here to get each other better so nobody’s trying to take take things personally. Everyone’s working together.”
Teheran fine after scratch
Right-hander Julio Teheran was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday because of left hamstring tightness. The injury, which he compared to a cramp, is not expected to keep him out long.
Teheran felt his leg tighten while jogging lightly in the outfield following Tuesday’s practice. After consulting with trainers, the team decided to skip his turn so as not to aggravate his leg.
“We don’t want to risk anything,” Teheran said. “Especially in the first outing of spring training where I was going to throw two innings and then it could have been something that would affect two months. Obviously we don’t want that to happen. It’s nothing big, it’s just something that we need to take care of, probably in two days I’ll be pitching. I’ll be fine for my next outing.”
A significant injury to Teheran, 29, would have been a major blow to the Angels’ rotation. He was signed to be a leader for an Angels pitching staff that struggled to stay healthy. He has always been reliable, making no fewer than 30 starts since 2013, and he has usually been effective. Despite allowing an elevated walk rate, he had a 3.81 ERA with the Atlanta Braves last season.
Teheran expects to make his spring debut Sunday or Monday.