Ramirez progressing post stem-cell injection

Angels righty aiming to avoid surgery on partially torn UCL

Ramirez progressing post stem-cell injection

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Angels right-hander JC Ramirez, who received a stem-cell injection in August to help heal a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, has shown progress in two medical checkups this fall, creating optimism that he'll be able to continue his rehab without surgery.

General manager Billy Eppler said Ramirez is scheduled to undergo a third ultrasound at the end of the month, which will be his final assessment before Spring Training.

"Everything's been positive so far," Eppler said Tuesday on Day 2 of the General Managers Meetings.

Ramirez emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises of the Angels' season after making a successful transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. The hard-throwing 29-year-old logged a 4.15 ERA over a career-high 147 1/3 innings in his first Major League season as a starter before landing on the disabled list in August with what was initially described as forearm irritation.

Ramirez leaves with an injury

An MRI exam later revealed the tear in his elbow ligament, though Ramirez said the possibility of Tommy John surgery was not broached, as team doctors did not believe the damage was serious enough to warrant a surgical repair. Ramirez instead opted to receive a stem-cell injection, the same treatment that healed Garrett Richards' torn UCL last year.

Ramirez is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter after surpassing the Super Two cutoff, meaning he stands to receive a significant raise this winter. Ramirez earned $550,00 in 2017, but his projected arbitration salary for next season is $2.6 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Worth noting

• The Angels continue to canvas the deep market for free-agent first basemen, as they are among several teams interested in Carlos Santana, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. Joel Sherman of the New York Post also reported Tuesday that the Angels have checked in on Lucas Duda.

Notable Free Agent: Santana

Santana, 31, is a switch-hitter who batted .259 with an .818 OPS and 23 home runs in 154 games for the Indians and was also a Gold Glove Award finalist this year. Cleveland extended Santana a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer, but he is expected to test free agency.

Duda, a 31-year-old left-handed hitter, hit .217 with an .818 OPS and 30 home runs in 127 games between the Mets and the Rays this season. The Angels were also scheduled to meet with representatives for Logan Morrison on Tuesday.

Morrison's 38th home run

The Angels covet more left-handed bats to help boost their offense, prompting them to explore potential upgrades at first base, where Luis Valbuena and C.J. Cron underwhelmed in 2017.

• Eppler said right-handers Matt Shoemaker (radial nerve surgery) and Nick Tropeano (Tommy John surgery) completed their rehabilitation assignments in Arizona without incident.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.