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OC Register: Angels relievers will be looking for strikeouts in extra innings with new rule


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ANAHEIM — When the Angels sent their high-leverage relievers out to pitch in Saturday’s intrasquad game, they did so starting each inning with a runner at second base.

It was part of their preparation for the new extra innings rule this year, which is intended to prevent games from going too long.

Obviously, starting an inning with a runner at second will put an increased emphasis for pitchers on getting strikeouts, and Manager Joe Maddon feels that could be a strength for the Angels.

“I think we do have some strikeout ability,” Maddon said Sunday. “Of course, that’s what you’re looking for, but I’ll take the ground ball to third or the popup on the infield, too.”

Last year Hansel Robles (9.3 strikeouts per nine innings), Ty Buttrey (10.5), Noe Ramirez (10.5) and Cam Bedrosian all struck out more than a batter per inning. Keynan Middleton, who barely pitched last season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, has a career rate of 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

“Getting that first out without permitting the runner to advance is pretty large if you can do that,” Maddon said.

Obviously, even if the runner does get to third with one out, a strikeout for the second out would also prevent the run scoring.

The new rule opens up a variety of situations for the offensive manager. On the road, the manager will have to decide whether to sacrifice to play for a single run or try for a bigger inning. At home, the manager’s decision will obviously be dictated by whether the visiting team scored.

“Interesting,” Maddon said. “Absolutely. It’s new for all of us.”

TROUT, OHTANI HOMER

Mike Trout smoked a line drive over the fence down the left field line against Matt Andriese in his first at-bat of Sunday’s intrasquad game, which featured all of the position players expected to be on the Opening Day roster.

Shohei Ohtani also hit a homer and singled. Ohtani had been out a few days with a stiff back, but he’s now hit in intrasquad games two days in a row and he is scheduled to pitch on Monday.

“I thought he looked really good yesterday,” Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “I loved that he took some swings yesterday after he threw. I thought he felt really good about himself. He had a lot of baseball confidence out of yesterday’s event.”

Andrew Heaney, who was named the Opening Day starter, faced 21 batters in five trips to the mound. He struck out five and walked one. He gave up eight hits, including the Ohtani homer.

Andriese, who is vying for a spot in the rotation, also took five turns on the mound. He struck out two and walked one.

ALSO

Maddon still has no update on Julio Teheran, who told ESPN last week that he was at home in Atlanta awaiting results of a coronavirus test. “Honestly, crickets,” Maddon said of the lack of an update on Teheran. “I have not heard anything new from the beginning. I don’t anticipate bad, because I’m not hearing either right now. He’s still not here and we’re still eagerly awaiting his arrival.”…

Tommy La Stella said he would not have a problem moving over to first base if Maddon asked him, even though he has barely worked out there at all this year. “I’ve been there before,” La Stella said. “I feel comfortable.” The Angels need someone to play first when Albert Pujols has the day off or is at DH, and Matt Thaiss is still not in camp. Jared Walsh just arrived after missing a few days…

The Angels have been playing most of their regulars for two out of three days early in the intrasquad games. Most of them played on Sunday, and were expected to play again on Monday, before getting Tuesday off.

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