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Angels' Skaggs to face A's in first start since April

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Tyler Skaggs' goal in life is to last an entire season in the majors without hearing the word "injured."

It's hard to even talk to him about baseball without mentioning the array of injuries that makes the disabled list a second home. The Los Angeles Angels left-hander is in his ninth season as a pro and his sixth in the majors, yet all he has to show for it is 46 games.

Skaggs returns to the mound Saturday against Oakland after being put on the DL April 29, the day after he suffered a right oblique muscle strain in the middle of his third straight terrific start. He went seven innings against Kansas City, allowing four hits, no runs and striking out nine, and followed that with a start against Toronto with seven innings, seven hits and two runs.

Skaggs (1-1, 3.99 ERA) was in the fifth inning against Texas, having allowed four hits, a run while striking out six when he felt the strain.

"I've been on the disabled list enough to know to take it day by day," Skaggs said. "It's been a long road back."

Skaggs was a first-round pick by the Angels in 2009, then was traded to Arizona in the deal that sent Dan Haren to Anaheim.

In 2013, the Angels re-acquired him in a three-team trade that included Mark Trumbo, Adam Eaton and Hector Santiago. He made the rotation in 2015 but suffered right hamstring and left forearm injuries that limited him to 18 games (5-5, 4.30 ERA).

Then he missed all of 2015 after tearing his left UCL. He got into 10 games last season (3-4, 4.17) and was expected to be an ace in 2017 before the muscle strain.

Skaggs tried to rush his return and the pain returned in his first rehab start.

"We all know what he's capable of, it's just a matter of him being healthy," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've taken it slow because we wanted him to come back ready to be competitive."

Skaggs is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA against the A's. He'll face RHP Paul Blackburn (2-1, 3.05), who was recalled from Triple-A Nashville on July 1 and will make his seventh start. He has gone six innings or more in all but one. Blackburn has never faced the Angels.

Blackburn has a fastball that tops out at 89 mph but a nice mix of pitches.

"Sink the ball, cut the ball. That's kind of how I pitched in the minors and that's what's helped me be successful," Blackburn said recently. "That's kind of what I've always done and have had to do."

"Being from this area, we all saw him in high school and he's really kind of the same guy," A's assistant general manager Dan Feinstein said. "He's shown great composure these last few starts, been extremely efficient with his pitches. He's not going to overpower hitters, but he's going to throw strikes and mix and get ground balls."

The A's, who traded away Sonny Gray to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline, have been in constant roster overhaul for a few years, and unlike some of Billy Beane's best seasons, the current rotation offers no clues to the future. A's starters have allowed four runs or more in seven of their last eight games, and gone less than four innings four times in that span. The starting pitchers' ERA in the last seven games is above 8.00, and the A's next complete game will be their first of 2017.

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