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OC Register: Angels pushing the ‘opener’ trend with Cam Bedrosian at the forefront

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ANAHEIM — The Angels’ use of an “opener” is starting to get weird – or less weird, depending on your vantage point.

When Cam Bedrosian squared off against Oakland’s Joakim Soria on Wednesday, it marked the first time ever that two opposing managers removed their first pitchers after three outs, then turned the game over to traditional starters.

For the Angels, using a reliever as a starter – dubbed the “opener” – has become common practice in 2019. Wednesday marked the sixth start this season for Bedrosian, who hasn’t been part of a starting rotation since he was playing A-ball as a 21-year-old. Luke Bard has opened a game twice. Luis Garcia, Hansel Robles and Taylor Cole have opened once.

Only four traditional starting pitchers (Trevor Cahill, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Harvey and Griffin Canning) have started more games for the Angels this year than Bedrosian. That’s weird, right?

“I try not to think of it in those terms,” Bedrosian said. “To me, it’s just kind of another inning – asking me to pitch in a certain situation, and that’s the situation I’m in. I try to look at it that way, and not look at it in those terms. It’s definitely different. It’s something kind of new.”

For years, the statistic that defined a relief pitcher’s worth was the save. The opener has changed that; Bedrosian said he’s learned to treat the value of a scoreless first inning and a scoreless ninth inning just the same. Angels openers have thrown a scoreless first in nine of their 11 starts.

Bedrosian has gotten the bulk of the opening assignments because of his ability to retire both left- and right-handed batters, Manager Brad Ausmus said. Though he introduced a changeup into his repertoire in spring training, the right-hander has succeeded without throwing one since early April. So far right-handers (.226) are actually hitting him slightly better than lefties (.135).

“You’re generally going to see one or two of each at the top of the lineup,” Ausmus said. “That’s the main reason I like (Bedrosian). There have been times he’s pitched the day before an opener, but I do think Cam is our best candidate as an opener because of his ability to get lefties and righties out.”

Ausmus believes the trend will catch on. Right now the Angels are far ahead of the pack, having used a one-inning opener 11 times. The Rays, who started the trend last season when Sergio Romo opened a game in Anaheim, have used a one-inning opener only four times; Manager Kevin Cash has been content to let Ryne Stanek or Hunter Wood complete two innings on 10 occasions.

“I think teams are looking to find edges anywhere, an edge that can help them win a game, win a series, win a division,” Ausmus said. “The opener is roughly a year old and I’m not sure how many teams have actually used them, but I think it’ll be a little more frequent.”


Justin Upton (turf toe) and Kevan Smith (concussion) each took at-bats against a pair of minor league pitchers – one left-handed and one right-handed. Upton will begin a rehab assignment with Class-A Inland Empire on Friday, Ausmus said.

The 31-year-old outfielder hasn’t played a competitive game since sustaining the injury in March. On Thursday, he missed his 63rd regular-season game. He’s in the second year of a five-year, $106 million extension.

Smith, 30, has missed 15 games with a concussion. The backup catcher also caught pitches Thursday and is expected to be activated Friday “unless something happens overnight,” Ausmus said. Smith is hitting .290 with one home run in 22 games this season.

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons (sprained left ankle) fielded ground balls without moving laterally for the first time since he was placed on the injured list on May 21.

“Simba is a voracious worker and has a very high pain tolerance,” Ausmus said. “You can make the argument that him at 80 percent is better than most at 100 percent. But we still don’t want it to affect his play.”

Starting pitcher Matt Harvey (back) will make his first minor league rehabilitation start with Triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday.


The Angels haven’t announced a starter for Saturday’s game against the Mariners. Right-hander Jaime Barría, who swapped places with Taylor Cole in Salt Lake prior to Thursday’s game, is a candidate for the assignment. Barría is 2-2 with an 8.16 earned-run average in four games. … Ausmus said Japanese-born pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who starts Saturday for the Mariners, will “probably” get a chance to face Angels DH Shohei Ohtani, his countryman. Ohtani, a left-handed hitter, was held out of the lineup against Kikuchi, a left-handed pitcher, when the Angels visited Seattle in May.


Angels (LHP Andrew Heaney) vs. Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales), Friday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports West

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