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OC Register: Angels show confidence in Luke Bard by adding him to the 40-man roster


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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Sultan of Spin took a step toward returning to the big leagues with the Angels.

Luke Bard, whose exceptional spin rate earned the attention of the Angels and other analytical observers, was added to the Angels’ 40-man roster Saturday.

Bard still has options, so it doesn’t guarantee that he will be on the opening day roster, but they would not have added him to the roster if he hadn’t made a positive impression.

Bard, 28, signed a minor-league deal with the Angels just before the start of spring training. He had been with the Angels last spring and into the season as a Rule 5 pick, but the Angels then sent him back to the Minnesota Twins.

One of the things that attracted the Angels to him was his spin rate. Last season, he had an average spin rate of 2,797 rpm, the second-best rate in the majors for any pitcher who threw 100 pitches.

So far this spring, he’s impressed in the more traditional way to: by getting outs. He’s allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings. He didn’t allow a baserunner in his first three games.

The difference, to Manager Brad Ausmus, is comfort.

“Last year when I was here, I could have misread it, but he looked a little wide eyed, a new environment, new team, big league camp,” Ausmus said. “He had an opportunity to make the team. He just looks so much more comfortable. … He knows he’s got the ability to pitch at the big league level now. He had a taste at the beginning of the 2018 season. He knows, ‘I can perform at this level if I execute my pitches.’”

Bard said comfort is part of it, but also he began throwing much earlier this winter, so he could “be as sharp as I could from Day 1” of spring training.

Bard performed well enough last spring to earn a spot on the Angels’ opening day roster, but he gave up 15 earned runs on five homers in 31 innings before the Angels sent him back to the Twins.

When he was a free agent again over the winter, he chose to come back to the Angels because of his familiarity with the organization.

“They treated me well and I built some relationships in the time I was over here,” he said. “I love it over here. I’m excited to be back.”

The Angels created a roster spot for Bard by placing Keynan Middleton on the 60-day disabled list.

ROTATION UPDATE

Although the Angels’ rotation remains too muddled for Ausmus to name an opening day starter, the composition of the rotation became fairly clear Saturday.

Dillon Peters was optioned, leaving just five healthy starters in camp: Tyler Skaggs, Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, Jaime Barría and Felix Peña. The Angels still haven’t officially ruled out Andrew Heaney out, but he is currently not throwing because of elbow inflammation.

Ausmus said he couldn’t say what order the pitchers will work once the season begins.

“We want to make sure people are healthy,” Ausmus said. “The health in these cases may determine how the rotation shapes up.”

If the pitchers continue working in their current order, Harvey would be lined up for Opening Day.

WINNERS

The Angels recognized the winners of their 2018 minor league awards, including the introduction of a new award in honor of a former player who died last year.

The Aaron Cox Award, which recognizes the player judged to be the best teammate, was given to right-hander Jeremy Beasley.

Cox was the brother of Mike Trout’s wife, Jessica. Both Trout and his wife were on the field for the presentation of the award before Saturday’s game.

The Angels also honored Jo Adell as the offensive player of the year, Brandon Marsh as the defensive player of the year, José Suarez as the pitcher of the year, and Ryan Barba as the manager of the year.

ALSO

Shohei Ohtani said he is hoping he can take the next step in his rehab – batting practice against a coach in the cage – next week. Ohtani has been throwing three days a week and hitting soft toss. …

In addition to Peters, the Angels sent down infielder Luis Rengifo, catcher Jack Kruger and reliever Jeremy Rhoades. …

Zack Cozart (calf strain) and Justin Upton (knee tendinitis) batted in minor league games again, the third consecutive day for Upton and second straight day for Cozart.

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