Angels pitcher Jason Vargas is expected to be back in the starting rotation… (Patrick Smith / Getty Images )
CLEVELAND — The Angels are out of playoff contention, but the final month and a half of the season will be important for left-hander Jason Vargas, who is expected to return to the rotation next week after sitting out seven weeks because of a blood clot in his armpit, which was surgically removed June 26.
Vargas, who gave up four hits, including three homers, in 4 2/3 innings for triple-A Salt Lake Thursday, will be a free agent this winter, and he’ll have eight or nine starts to prove he is worthy of the types of deals — in the four-year, $50-million range — pitchers of his caliber and experience have gotten in recent winters.
“I’d like to pitch in a big league game before I even start thinking about that,” said Vargas, who was 6-4 with a 3.65 earned-run average in 14 starts before going on the disabled list. “It just all depends on how things play out.”
The Angels are interested in retaining Vargas, who grew up in Apple Valley and pitched at Long Beach State, and Vargas said it would be appealing to remain with a team “that’s well put together and is in the area you grew up.” But what about the fact the Angels will probably miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year?
“I don’t think this team is not built to go to the playoffs,” Vargas said. “One reason I’d play here is because I want a chance to get to the World Series and play in big games. Things just click at different times. A lot of different things have gone wrong this year, but that doesn’t change who’s in this locker room.”
If Vargas pitches well in his return, there is a chance the Angels could trade him for a prospect or two this month and pursue him again as a free agent this winter. Vargas isn’t sure how he’d feel about the Angels under that scenario.
“It’s a business, but I think that would affect anybody,” Vargas said. “You meet a new group of people. Circumstances change. It depends on how it all plays out.”
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