Andrew Heaney will take the mound for the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday afternoon against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and that itself is a victory for the left-hander.
Heaney's toughest opponent in his career has been his own body, but when healthy, he's shown an ability worthy of his selection as the Marlins' first-round draft choice in 2012.
Since joining the Angels in 2015, Heaney has been beset with shoulder and elbow injuries, including undergoing Tommy John surgery. He's averaged just 14.4 starts per season.
Sunday's start against the Rangers, though, will be the 29-year-old's fourth of the season. And his first three have been exactly what Angels manager Joe Maddon is looking for in his No. 1 starter.
Heaney is 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings and a WHIP of 0.978.
"I know how good I can be when I go out and pitch for a long stretch," Heaney said. "To myself, I've proven that I know how good I can be whenever I have long stretches where I'm healthy and am able to take the ball every five or six days. I definitely have all the confidence in the world in myself."
Heaney, who will face the Rangers for the first time this season, is 2-3 with a 4.82 ERA in 10 career starts against them. He has been able to handle Rangers right fielder Joey Gallo, striking him out eight times in 12 at-bats. Shortstop Elvis Andrus, though, has had some success against Heaney, with seven hits, including two homers and a double, in 23 at-bats.
Texas will be going for the sweep, having won 3-4 on Friday and 2-0 on Saturday.
The Rangers will start right-hander Lance Lynn, who has been even better than Heaney so far this season. He's 1-0 with a 0.49 ERA in three starts, beginning the season with 18 consecutive scoreless innings, and he's lasted at least six innings in all three starts. Opposing hitters are batting just .100 against him.
Some of Lynn's success can be attributed to an effort to throw more off-speed pitches. Last season, he threw a fastball 71.8 percent of the time, the third highest rate in the league among pitchers with at least 1,000 pitches thrown.
"We talked about it all offseason, mixing in more curveballs and changeups," Lynn said. "... If I can mix in my curve and changeup to get some easier outs, that's the plan. Once I get going and do what I do, if I can have them as weapons, it's going to be good."
Angels center fielder Mike Trout is 5-for-18 against Lynn, including two home runs, and Shohei Ohtani is 3-for-7. Overall against the Angels, Lynn is 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA in six career starts.
--Field Level Media