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OC Register: Angels pondering rotation configuration around Shohei Ohtani

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Angels are preparing to put Shohei Ohtani back into the starting rotation next year, although Billy Eppler isn’t ready to say just how they’ll configure the rotation around him.

Eppler has said the Angels plan to have Ohtani pitch once a week, and be the designated hitter three or four days a week. With Ohtani pitching on six days rest, though, it’s unclear at this point what that means for the rest of the starting pitchers.

“I’m going to wait until Shohei gets through everything he needs to get through,” Eppler said on Monday, the first day of the GM Meetings.

He added that the Angels likely wouldn’t have the “gameplan” for their rotation until “early January.”

In 2018, the Angels started the season with a six-man rotation, which was partly to accommodate Ohtani and partly to give extra rest to the other starters, most of whom had injury issues.

If they don’t want to use a six-man rotation in 2020, they could have Ohtani pitch once a week and still have a five-man rotation. They would simply need a spot starter a couple times a month. They have plenty of starters with options who could serve that role: Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barría, José Suarez, Dillon Peters and Félix Peña.

As for the core of the rotation, Eppler said Monday that he’d “like to” add two starting pitchers over the winter.

Presumably Gerrit Cole is their top target, but Eppler said “I can tell you that I have cast a very, very wide net.”

Eppler said the Angels “have the ability to be aggressive (financially) if we want to. We’ll just see how things ultimately take shape. There’s a lot of winter left.”

The best returning pitcher who finished the season without health concerns is Andrew Heaney. Griffin Canning was on the injured list at the end of the season because of elbow inflammation, but Eppler said Canning is now cleared and fully immersed into a throwing program.

Ohtani had knee surgery in September, just as he was getting toward the end of his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He’s now running on an anti-gravity treadmill and playing catch at a distance of about 120 feet. Ohtani is scheduled to get on a mound toward the end of November and complete his throwing rehab about three or four weeks later.

“Everything is on track,” Eppler said. “I just talked to our guys before coming out here. They were were pleased with his rate and his pace.”

MORE INJURY UPDATES

Mike Trout and Justin Upton, who had procedures at the end of the season, are both doing well in their rehab, Eppler said.

Upton, who had a platelet-rich plasma injection in his knee, recently had an evaluation and “they say it looks excellent,” Eppler said.

Zack Cozart, whose two seasons with the Angels have essentially both been lost because of injuries, is a few days away from beginning a “normal offseason hitting progression,” Eppler said.

Cozart, who enters the final year of his contract, is likely going to have to show something in spring training to earn any playing time around infielders David Fletcher, Tommy La Stella and Luís Rengifo.

BEHIND THE PLATE

Asked how comfortable he is with their current catchers, Eppler said they can get more out of Max Stassi and Kevan Smith.

“That’s an area where we feel good with what we’re getting defensively at that position,” Eppler said.

He added that Smith had periods of productivity offensively around his injuries, and that Stassi was reworking his swing toward the end of the season. He hit .136 last season, including .071 in 49 plate appearances with the Angels.

“We think he’s better than what his stat line showed last year,” Eppler said.

Stassi missed the end of the season with a hip injury that required surgery. At this point it’s not certain he’ll even be healthy by Opening Day, Eppler said.

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3 minutes ago, UndertheHalo said:

Stfu up about being “aggressive if we want to”  you have to be aggressive you putz.  Pull someone down or get shown the door. 

He prob doesn’t want to come off as super desperate for FAs

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3 minutes ago, UndertheHalo said:

Pointless.  Everyone with a pulse knows the Angels situation.  

Why do you put so much stock into press comments? He’s not going to say what’s actually on his mind to a reporter.

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7 minutes ago, failos said:

Why do you put so much stock into press comments? He’s not going to say what’s actually on his mind to a reporter.

I’m not putting stock into it.  I just don’t care to hear anything from the Angels other then we’re going to go out and buy good players and we’re going to spend the money necessary to do it.  That’s it.  Who gives a shit about anything else. 

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And I think this article clears some things up. Many of us were hoping for three starting pitchers but that appears too optimistic at this point. Eppler intends to target two pitchers, and they're pretty much looking at everyone at this point.

And as far as the catching situation goes, he does not sound like a GM seriously contemplating making a run at Yasmani Grandal.

I will say this though. If this team only signs two starting pitchers and those two aren't at least Gerrit Cole and Jake Odorizzi level in quality, then I'm going to join the, "fire Eppler" bandwagon.

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I don't like Eppler saying he has a "wide net" of players to look at. To me, It's only four pitchers to look at. Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner (maybe Odorizzi). If you don't sign two of those names then to me Eppler needs to get the hell out. Cole is a must and Wheeler is must as well. Then, you acquire your third arm via trade come deadline time to make a push in the playoffs. 

Eppler and Arte have Trout, Ohtani, Maddon, Callaway and Adell to influence the free agents. That's more than enough plus adding Cole and Wheeler gets us into playoff talk, but it takes a guy like Thor to put us in the talks for sure. 

Get it done.

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26 minutes ago, failos said:

He prob doesn’t want to come off as super desperate for FAs

He can't downplay it this year. Every MLB writer and executive know the Angels are on the hot seat now that we have Trout locked up. It'd be stupid if Eppler is trying to downplay anything.

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15 minutes ago, UndertheHalo said:

I’m not putting stock into it.  I just don’t care to hear anything from the Angels other then we’re going to go out and buy good players and we’re going to spend the money necessary to do it.  That’s it.  Who gives a shit about anything else. 

Look at it like this: it’s how I never cared what Sosh said to the media. The whole positive message: “turn the page”; but who knows what’s going on behind the scenes

Edited by failos

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1 minute ago, angelsnationtalk said:

He can't downplay it this year. Every MLB writer and executive know the Angels are on the hot seat now that we have Trout locked up. It'd be stupid if Eppler is trying to downplay anything.

well there isn’t a scenario where Eppler tells the media “ Oh, we have no pitching and we really need Cole, etc...” You guys don’t seem to understand the difference between PR talk and what actually happens behind the scenes

Edited by failos

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2 minutes ago, failos said:

well there isn’t a scenario where Eppler tells the media “ Oh, we have no pitching and we really need Cole, etc...” You guys don’t seem to understand the difference between PR talk and what actually happens behind the scenes

I understand what Eppler is saying, I'm just over playing it. Obviously Eppler is going to keep his cool and not run around with his underwear on his head.

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21 minutes ago, Second Base said:

And I think this article clears some things up. Many of us were hoping for three starting pitchers but that appears too optimistic at this point. Eppler intends to target two pitchers, and they're pretty much looking at everyone at this point.

And as far as the catching situation goes, he does not sound like a GM seriously contemplating making a run at Yasmani Grandal.

I will say this though. If this team only signs two starting pitchers and those two aren't at least Gerrit Cole and Jake Odorizzi level in quality, then I'm going to join the, "fire Eppler" bandwagon.

I think they're planning on Ohtani, Heaney, and Canning as being locks for the rotation. Unless they go with 6, they don't have room for anyone else, or you're leaving no room for Canning. If you do go with 6, the last guy will be on and off the rotation. That's probably a role better suited for the rest of the minor league options (Barria, Sandoval, etc.) than Canning, I would think.

As far as Grandal, I doubt he would say, "Yeah, we want to make a big upgrade at catcher." Why advertise it? They went after him last offseason. I doubt the interest has disappeared, but I don't think Eppler is all-in on Grandal. I'd see it as a, "Let's monitor it, and if we can make it work, we'll take a shot at it" situation. Everyone thinks Stassi should be gone, but I don't see Eppler dumping him that quick. So if they replace anyone, it'll be Smith. 

11 minutes ago, angelsnationtalk said:

I don't like Eppler saying he has a "wide net" of players to look at. To me, It's only four pitchers to look at. Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner (maybe Odorizzi). If you don't sign two of those names then to me Eppler needs to get the hell out. Cole is a must and Wheeler is must as well. Then, you acquire your third arm via trade come deadline time to make a push in the playoffs. 

Eppler and Arte have Trout, Ohtani, Maddon, Callaway and Adell to influence the free agents. That's more than enough plus adding Cole and Wheeler gets us into playoff talk, but it takes a guy like Thor to put us in the talks for sure. 

Get it done.

If they see Bumgarner as anything close to Cole, Strasburg, and Wheeler, they're crazy. He's a clear tier below Cole and Strasburg, and there are legitimate reasons to see him below Wheeler also. Bumgarner has this reputation because of his WS history. It's the name. That shouldn't automatically put him in the top tier.

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33 minutes ago, Sean-Regan said:

I think they're planning on Ohtani, Heaney, and Canning as being locks for the rotation. Unless they go with 6, they don't have room for anyone else, or you're leaving no room for Canning. If you do go with 6, the last guy will be on and off the rotation. That's probably a role better suited for the rest of the minor league options (Barria, Sandoval, etc.) than Canning, I would think.

As far as Grandal, I doubt he would say, "Yeah, we want to make a big upgrade at catcher." Why advertise it? They went after him last offseason. I doubt the interest has disappeared, but I don't think Eppler is all-in on Grandal. I'd see it as a, "Let's monitor it, and if we can make it work, we'll take a shot at it" situation. Everyone thinks Stassi should be gone, but I don't see Eppler dumping him that quick. So if they replace anyone, it'll be Smith. 

If they see Bumgarner as anything close to Cole, Strasburg, and Wheeler, they're crazy. He's a clear tier below Cole and Strasburg, and there are legitimate reasons to see him below Wheeler also. Bumgarner has this reputation because of his WS history. It's the name. That shouldn't automatically put him in the top tier.

They will go have to a 6-man rotation in order for Ohtani’s schedule for him to workout better in terms of at bats and rest. If they sign Cole and Wheeler that pushes it to Cole/Ohtani/Wheeler/Heaney/Canning and Sandoval/Suarez filling in should someone (Heaney) get injured. 
To me, in order to make a deep playoff run they need another strong #2 arm. It would have to look something like Cole/Thor/Ohtani/Wheeler/Heaney/ Canning. Suarez or Sandoval will be used in the trade. I’m not saying get Thor (we don’t have the prospects for it without using Adell), but it has to be something like that.

I never said Bumgarner was close to Cole. Wheeler, Bumgarner and Odorizzi fit as second tier options. But they are the top arms on the market which is why I added them in my piece. 

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2 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

BEHIND THE PLATE

Asked how comfortable he is with their current catchers, Eppler said they can get more out of Max Stassi and Kevan Smith.

“That’s an area where we feel good with what we’re getting defensively at that position,” Eppler said.

He added that Smith had periods of productivity offensively around his injuries, and that Stassi was reworking his swing toward the end of the season. He hit .136 last season, including .071 in 49 plate appearances with the Angels.

“We think he’s better than what his stat line showed last year,” Eppler said.

Stassi missed the end of the season with a hip injury that required surgery. At this point it’s not certain he’ll even be healthy by Opening Day, Eppler said.

Eppler is so wrong here.

The fact that he even said this is cause for concern. 

Stassi has garbage and Kevan Smith is a decent backup C option that isn't the greatest at pitch framing, nor can he control the running game very well. 

This makes it clear to me from his comments that he thinks Stassi is our starting C going into 2020. 

benny hill wtf GIF

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2 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

BEHIND THE PLATE

Asked how comfortable he is with their current catchers, Eppler said they can get more out of Max Stassi and Kevan Smith.

“That’s an area where we feel good with what we’re getting defensively at that position,” Eppler said.

 

giphy (19).gif

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11 minutes ago, Chuckster70 said:

Eppler is so wrong here.

The fact that he even said this is cause for concern. 

Stassi has garbage and Kevan Smith is a decent backup C option that isn't the greatest at pitch framing, nor can he control the running game very well. 

This makes it clear to me from his comments that he thinks Stassi is our starting C going into 2020. 

benny hill wtf GIF

I know this is the minority belief, but I'm with him.  I think Max Stassi is better than what he's shown so far.  I think he's going to be a great defensive catcher with the ability to drive the ball.  His batting average and OBP won't be great, but we will hit for power.  And Kevan Smith is pretty much everything you described.  Now the best defender, but the guy can hit.  When he was healthy last year, it was clear that he can be a very good offensive catcher.  The defense won't ever get him into a featured role, but I feel comfortable with him as the backup, as long as the starter is a great defensive option.  

And that's what Max Stassi is. 

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29 minutes ago, Chuckster70 said:

Eppler is so wrong here.

The fact that he even said this is cause for concern. 

Stassi has garbage and Kevan Smith is a decent backup C option that isn't the greatest at pitch framing, nor can he control the running game very well. 

This makes it clear to me from his comments that he thinks Stassi is our starting C going into 2020. 

benny hill wtf GIF

Yeah, that really stood out to me. I think that's an egregious comment despite, what I've previously said in this thread

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34 minutes ago, angelsnationtalk said:

They will go have to a 6-man rotation in order for Ohtani’s schedule for him to workout better in terms of at bats and rest. If they sign Cole and Wheeler that pushes it to Cole/Ohtani/Wheeler/Heaney/Canning and Sandoval/Suarez filling in should someone (Heaney) get injured. 

The absolutely don't need a six rotation, Ohtani pitches once a week they other 4 pitch every 5 days. Every once in awhile (2 or 3 times a month) they bring in a spot starter from AAA.

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5 minutes ago, Ace-Of-Diamonds said:

The absolutely don't need a six rotation, Ohtani pitches once a week they other 4 pitch every 5 days. Every once in awhile (2 or 3 times a month) they bring in a spot starter from AAA.

I think this is what they likely will do. They’ll probably still call it 6 man, though. I don’t think anyone believes they’ll have 6 starters on the roster all the time. 

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23 minutes ago, Second Base said:

I know this is the minority belief, but I'm with him.  I think Max Stassi is better than what he's shown so far.  I think he's going to be a great defensive catcher with the ability to drive the ball.  His batting average and OBP won't be great, but we will hit for power.  And Kevan Smith is pretty much everything you described.  Now the best defender, but the guy can hit.  When he was healthy last year, it was clear that he can be a very good offensive catcher.  The defense won't ever get him into a featured role, but I feel comfortable with him as the backup, as long as the starter is a great defensive option.  

And that's what Max Stassi is. 

Even twice as good as last year still sucks...

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