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OC Register: Brad Ausmus remains confident in Angels’ opener strategy


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CINCINNATI — Although the Angels’ strategy of using openers has not worked lately, Brad Ausmus remains convinced that it’s a sound plan.

“I still think it’s extremely viable depending on who the starter is and the availability of your relief corps,” the Angels manager said on Tuesday. “But it absolutely makes sense.”

The practice came into question a day after Taylor Cole had a second straight rough outing as an opener. He gave up four runs on Friday in Cleveland and five runs on Monday in Cincinnati. Despite effective outings from the subsequent pitchers in both games, the Angels could not climb out of the early hole and lost both games.

Prior to that, though, the Angels openers had a 1.93 ERA in their first 20 games. They had allowed zero runs 16 times, one run three times and two runs once.

The point of the opener is to help the pitchers at the back end of a rotation face more hitters without seeing the top of the opponent’s lineup a third time. If a pitcher starts the game with the leadoff hitter, he can only face 18 batters before seeing the leadoff man the third time. If he starts with the No. 5 hitter, he can face 23 hitters before seeing the leadoff man a third time.

The Angels’ primary pitchers have averaged 4-2/3 innings per game, with an ERA of 5.68 in 22 games following an opener. Including the last two rough outings, the two-pitcher combination in the 22 opener games has averaged 5-2/3 innings with a 5.87 ERA.

The Angels are 12-10 in the games with an opener, which is slightly better than their winning percentage with a traditional starter.

Of course, one of those victories was the Angels’ combined no-hitter on July 12, which was started by Cole and finished by Félix Peña. That was part of three straight opening appearances in which Cole pitched five scoreless innings.

“A lot of things can happen quickly,” Cole said. “You can have a lot of success really quickly and things can turn around really quickly. I think that with that perspective I’ve just got to realize I’m only an outing or two from getting back on track and helping the team the way I know I can.”

Ausmus said after Monday’s game that they may move Cole back into more traditional relief appearances until he gets back on track.

UPTON UPDATE

Since Justin Upton got a day off to work on his swing last week, he had one hit in 13 at-bats over his next four games. He went hitless in four at-bats on Monday, including three against All-Star Luís Castillo.

“He definitely looks better at the plate,” Ausmus said Tuesday. “Throw yesterday out the window because of the pitcher he faced. He’s faced some tough pitchers. He faced (Mike) Clevinger the other day. I just think the at-bats look better. He’s letting the ball travel deeper. He’s not swinging and missing like he was on pitches way out of the zone. I think he’s making good progress.”

Upton came into Tuesday’s game with nine hits in his previous 63 at-bats, a .143 average.

ALSO

Griffin Canning played catch on Tuesday, the first time he’d thrown since being placed on the injured list with elbow inflammation. Ausmus said he’s not sure when Canning will return, but “I don’t expect it to be a long-term thing.” …

Noé Ramírez, who has been out with a viral infection, threw a bullpen session on Tuesday. Ausmus said he’d had a setback on Monday, but bounced back well the next day. Ausmus said Ramírez had been scheduled for a rehab appearance this weekend, but that’s now uncertain because of Monday’s setback. …

Andrew Heaney felt good a day after throwing a simulated game, so he is expected to start on Saturday in Boston, assuming he has no setbacks in the coming days. Heaney is on the injured list because of shoulder inflammation. …

Keynan Middleton, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, threw a 20-pitch bullpen session at full velocity on Tuesday. Ausmus wasn’t sure if he’ll have another one before resuming his rehab assignment. Middleton had pitched four games in the minors before having a setback about three weeks ago. …

Major League Baseball revealed the nicknames players will use for their Players’ Weekend jerseys (Aug. 23-25). Ty Buttrey’s jersey will include two emojis: the peach and the tree.

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP Dillon Peters, 2-0, 3.20) at Red Sox (TBA), Friday, 4:10 p.m., Fox Sports West

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15 minutes ago, mymerlincat said:

If we're going to continue doing this, I'd much prefer it if we picked 1 or 2 (MAYBE 3) guys that we're going to use as an opener, instead of the seemingly random mix we're going with now.

How many different guys have we used in the last month?  Is it more than 3?  

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12 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

“I still think it’s extremely viable depending on who the starter is and the availability of your relief corps,” the Angels manager said on Tuesday. “But it absolutely makes sense.”

This really sums it up. It’s not applied to every SP. It’s not binary. It’s only being carried out when the data suggests it gives them an advantage. It’s situational and like everything else in baseball sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. 

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