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OC Register: 2020 Angels spring training preview: bullpen


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As the Angels head toward the first workout of spring training on Feb. 12, we are providing a breakdown of how they stand with their roster. Players acquired this winter include the method of their acquisition in parentheses. This week, the bullpen. (Previously: the rotation):

2019 RECAP

The Angels’ bullpen was a strength at times in 2019, but the failure of the starters to get deep in games – or Manager Brad Ausmus’ reluctance to let them try – forced the bullpen to handle a heavy workload. Cody Allen began the season as the closer and struggled so much that he was released in June. Hansel Robles emerged to become the closer and the Angels’ best overall pitcher, posting a 2.48 ERA. Ty Buttrey had a 2.45 ERA in late June, but it ballooned to 6.93 the rest of the season. He insisted it was just a mechanical issue, and not fatigue. Cam Bedrosian tweaked his slider and was consistently effective all season. They also got solid work out of Noé Ramírez, who had 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. One of the most disappointing performances came from Justin Anderson, who looked to be a potential back-end reliever in 2018, but regressed to a 5.55 ERA.

HOW IT LOOKS RIGHT NOW

The Angels’ best hope for improvement might be Keynan Middleton, who missed almost all of 2019 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. When he returned, Middleton gave up one run in 7-2/3 innings, showing an improved changeup that could become a key pitch for him. Assuming Middleton can pitch the way he did before surgery, he could be a part of a dominating late-inning trio, with Robles and Buttrey. Bedrosian could also be in the mix. Noé Ramírez will be back with the potential to fill a key multi-inning relief role. After that, the Angels have Anderson, Mike Mayers (waiver claim from Cardinals) and non-roster invitee Neil Ramírez (free agent from Blue Jays) to compete for middle relief spots. Matt Andriese (trade from Diamondbacks) is coming to camp as a starter, but he’s been a reliever most of the past two years, so he is likely to be in the bullpen if he doesn’t crack the rotation.

THE NEXT LAYER

Right-hander Kyle Keller (trade from Marlins) has pitched just 10-2/3 innings so far in the majors, and he still has options, so he figures to be one of the relievers who move up and down, with a chance to stay in the majors if he pitches well. Luke Bard, Taylor Cole and Parker Markel (trade from Pirates) also have options, making them likely candidates for the Anaheim-Salt Lake shuttle. Félix Peña, who was a reliever when the Angels acquired him, also could get some work in the bullpen if he doesn’t remain a starter.

MOVE THEY COULD MAKE

Every pitcher mentioned so far is a right-hander. Lefty Ryan Buchter was non-tendered by the Oakland A’s, after posting a 2.98 ERA in 64 games. Although the new three-batter rule will make it more difficult for pitchers like him to be used as situational lefties, Buchter has held righties to a .210 average, along with .187 against lefties. He also has a career average of 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which is just what the Angels like to see.

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Having just looked at Buchter's numbers the past 2 years may more tell why he's still unsigned.

Hits allowed have climbed a lot while with the A's the past 2 years.   The WHIP was real good through 2017, and then ballooned to over 1.40 by 2019.   Sounds like he allowed a lot of inherited runners to score in 2019?

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