The Los Angeles Angels began the 2016 MLB season with reasonable odds to chase the 2016 World Series. The main question mark remained their offense behind MVP candidate, Mike Trout.

As fate would have it, the defense may be an issue, as well.

Major Injury

The team was already struggling to stay afloat in the competitive AL West, going just 13-15 with 115 runs allowed through their first 28 games. Oddly enough, their offense was looking better across the board than they did a year ago, producing 105 runs and giving the Angels a shot if the defense could pull through at some point.

That probably won’t be happening. Per reports, pitching ace Garrett Richards is lost for the season after the team learned he will need Tommy John Surgery thanks to a torn right ulnar collateral ligament. Richards was initially scratched from what would have been his most recent start on Friday, with the team citing fatigue and dehydration as the reasons for why he was unable to take the mound. The real cause for alarm was the damaged UCL, which the Halos reportedly discovered on Thursday.

Not Just Richards

Richards had not been enjoying better 2016 than advertised, as he has racked up 34 strikeouts and posted a solid 2.23 ERA despite going just 1-3 in six starts. By far the Angels’ top arm, the loss of Richards looks to be a massive blow on paper, especially since it combines with the likely loss of fellow pitcher, Andrew Heaney.

Heaney was said to have been dealing with a UCL issue of his own, although reports have not yet indicated that his season is at risk or if it is as serious as Richards’ issue. Initial reports suggest that Heaney’s issue could be as minor as “normal wear and tear” of the elbow, to an actual ligament tear.

For now, early word suggests Heaney will not be lost for the season just yet and could opt to rehab his injury.

Next Man Up

No matter which way you look at it, Richards is done for the year and at least for the interim, the Angels lose two competent arms that could have aided a slumping defense. Jered Weaver is left as the top ace in the pitching rotation, while Hector Santiago and Nick Tropeano should both be thrust up in the rotation. That puts added pressure on the top pitchers in Los Angeles, none of which are true aces like Richards.

The team could get some help later in June when 35-year old starting pitcher C.J. Wilson aims to return from a shoulder issue. Wilson tends to be an erratic option, but had his moments in 2015 and given the recent injuries, would be in line for a key spot in the main pitching rotation.

Outside Help?

The Angels are in a tough spot and unless they can bring in some outside help or a young arm from AAA can rise up, they could be in serious trouble when it comes to making the playoffs. Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum was scheduled to hold a throwing session on Friday afternoon, and provided it goes well, could quickly become a hot name for the Angels to consider adding.

Until the Angels make a move, the loss of Richards and Heaney leaves a major dent in their rotation and naturally negatively impacts their defense. They’ll be tough bets to get out of their early season funk if they can’t find some helpful arms in the near future.

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