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OC Register: Reliever Hansel Robles making strong impression on Angels this month


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ANAHEIM — Add Hansel Robles to the list of players who are using this month to set themselves up for a more prominent role on the 2019 Angels.

Robles, who picked up his first save with the Angels on Tuesday night, has allowed two earned runs in 10-1/3 innings since coming off the disabled list with a shoulder issue in late August.

He blanked the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning on Tuesday, including throwing six changeups, a pitch he hadn’t used much previously.

“He’s been lights out the last handful of appearances,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “You see the velocity, and he’s come up with a really good changeup. He’s got a nice slider. He’s got three good pitches for any situation. He’s a guy that’s definitely putting his best foot forward with the opportunities he’s had this last month.”

Robles, 28, was claimed on waivers from the New York Mets in June. He had a 5.03 ERA with the Mets, but he’s posted a 3.06 mark in 36 games with the Angels.

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He relies mostly on a 97 mph fastball and a slider. If he can continue to develop the changeup that he’s broken out lately, he could be a piece of a good bullpen going forward.

“He has made some adjustments,” Scioscia said. “He’s understanding the ability to change speeds, how effective it is when you throw 97. I think he’s really progressing with that.”

Robles, who will be out of options next year, goes into a 2019 bullpen mix that also includes Ty Buttrey, Blake Parker, José Álvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Justin Anderson, Williams Jerez and Noé Ramírez. Keynan Middleton, the Angels’ closer in April before he had Tommy John surgery, could be back by midseason.

COWART’S FUTURE

David Fletcher’s hamstring injury has provided Kaleb Cowart with a chance to get a solid two weeks’ worth of at-bats to carry into a critical winter.

Cowart, 26, will be out of options next year, so time is running short for him to establish himself as a major leaguer.

Cowart has proved to be a versatile defensive player who is excellent at third and reliable at the other infield spots, plus left and right field.

“Kaleb has really blossomed as a person on a major league baseball depth chart because of his versatility,” Scioscia said. “This guy has been very valuable to be able to play six positions. At third base, he’s Gold Glove-caliber.”

At the plate, however, Cowart owns a career .180 average and .545 OPS over 367 plate appearances. His best shot at extended playing time was last August. Cowart was the everyday second baseman for about a month – in between Danny Espinosa and Brandon Phillips – and he still hit .205 in that stretch. He’s 5 for 32 since Fletcher’s injury created an everyday spot for him.

“I’m feeling more comfortable here of late,” Cowart said. “I just kind of keep going and learning to be as consistent as I can, whether it’s coming off the bench or playing every day.”

There might be one alternative track for Cowart, who was considered a first-round talent as both an infielder and pitcher when he was drafted in 2010. The Angels considered moving him to the mound when he was struggling to hit several years ago in the minors.

Now, the organization is particularly open-minded in terms of having two-way players. In addition to Shohei Ohtani, they sent two minor league outfielders to instructional league to see if they could become two-way players.

“That is cool,” Cowart said. “I personally haven’t thought about it. No one has approached me about it. I don’t know how it would play out, health-wise, but I think it’s very interesting.”

UP NEXT

Angels (TBA) vs. A’s (TBA), Friday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports West, KLAA (830 AM)

GettyImages-1040554302-1.jpg?fit=620%2C9
Angels catcher Joe Hudson congratulates relief pitcher Hansel Robles after he closed out their 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. With an improving changeup, Robles could be a reliable piece of the team’s bullpen in 2019. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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