The trade that sent front-line Arkansas hurlers and Angels prospects Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena to Milwaukee, along with top shortstop prospect Jean Segura, left Schugel and Orangel Arenas to anchor the Travelers pitching staff.
"You've got to have that next wave ready to take over, and A.J. has been that next wave," Arkansas manager Mike Micucci said of the July 28 deal that brought Zack Greinke to Los Angeles.
Though Arenas (4-9, 5.69 ERA) has been up and down, Schugel, a converted third baseman, has been a model of consistency with a 2.85 ERA that's second best in the Texas League.
"Position players are out there every day," said Schugel. "As far as the routine [for pitchers], it's a matter of me being comfortable with it and sticking with it."
The San Diego Padres originally drafted Schugel in 2007 out of high school as a third baseman. Schugel did not sign and attended Central Arizona Junior College, where he pitched infrequently. The Angels drafted him in 2010 and convinced him to move to the mound.
"I was a little skeptical," said Schugel, who admits he's surprised himself with his mound success. "Once I got out there and got comfortable with it, I felt a lot better. ... It kind of came a little bit easier than I thought it would."
Schugel began his pro career as a reliever and became a starter at Class A Cedar Rapids last year. He's impressed scouts -- and perhaps even his father, Jeff, an Angels scout -- with his poise, delivery, accuracy and a fastball that can reach 93 mph.
"I just wanted to be good wherever I was, and when they told me I'd be starting, I liked that. I liked it more than the bullpen," said Schugel, who relies on a fastball, curve and changeup and is developing a cutter.
The Angels have been reducing Schugel's innings of late to keep him from surpassing a preset pitch limit.
"Most organizations have their idea of what they think max innings should be for guys," Micucci said. "I'm not sure -- maybe he pitched better than he thought in the beginning of the year. His outings were longer than they were maybe anticipating at the beginning of the year, and now they're starting to kind of look at backing him off."
Seven steady: The Frisco RoughRiders scored runs in seven consecutive innings and got at least one hit from every starter on the way to a 10-3 victory at Northwest Arkansas on Saturday.
Hanging tough: Despite suffering a three-game sweep at home to Arkansas, Corpus Christi still held a five-game lead over San Antonio in the second-half South Division race entering Monday. First-half champion Frisco beat out Corpus Christi by four games in the first half.
In the Cards: Led by the top two hitters in the Texas League -- Oscar Tavares (.320) and Jermaine Curtis (.317) -- Springfield is second in the circuit with a .267 average. The Cards are also second in pitching with a 3.74 ERA and lead the North Division by 6 1/2 games entering Monday.