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OC Register: Angels open to increasing Shohei Ohtani’s role down the stretch this season


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OAKLAND — Shohei Ohtani, who was the Angels’ No. 3 hitter for Opening Day on Friday, won’t be in the lineup on Saturday.

That’s because he’s pitching on Sunday.

The Angels have never wavered from their plan of using Ohtani to pitch once a week and giving him the day off before and after he pitches. However, two of the Angels’ key decision-makers have now said on consecutive days that could loosen as soon as this year.

“(Pitching) one day of the week, we talked about it, we’re gonna stay with that and then when you get to the playoffs, things could change,” Manager Joe Maddon said before the Angels opener on Friday. “I could even think that they could change towards the end of the season as you’re in the hunt, and then all of a sudden you might soften things up a bit.”

A day earlier, General Manager Billy Eppler had said that he was “open-minded” to loosening the restrictions later in the year, depending on Ohtani’s “recovery,” and how he feels.

Maddon also suggested that next year there would be a better chance of using Ohtani differently.

“I think we’ll grow out of this,” Maddon said. “He’s coming off the injury, all the adaptations he’s making, so hopefully next year would be a year I would think with really good health that you could start maybe working into a different method.”

ANOTHER STATEMENT

All the players from both teams stood for introductions and then held a black ribbon, symbolizing unity and the fight for equality.

When the National Anthem began five players kneeled. Brian Goodwin and Keynan Middleton kneeled with their right fists raises. Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and Noe Ramirez also kneeled. Middleton did the same thing during the Anthem on Monday before the exhibition game in San Diego.

Maddon said the team had several discussions via Zoom about how to handle statements about equality.

“We talked about the anthem in terms of speaking to your own truth,” Maddon said. “When the anthem is played, if somebody chooses to kneel, they kneel. I’ve spoken to my truth being to stand, so I think now more than ever individuality matters in regards to expressing how you feel about things.”

PLAYING WITHOUT RENDON

Anthony Rendon, who has tightness in his oblique, officially missed his first Opening Day with the Angels, although there is hope that he won’t miss many more.

Rendon took some swings and played catch on Friday, according to a team spokesman.

Without their third baseman, the Angels started David Fletcher at third and Tommy La Stella at second. They could have used those two in opposite positions, but Maddon said with the Angels starting left-handed Andrew Heaney he figured there may be more ground balls to the left side, and Fletcher is the better defender.

ALSO

Albert Pujols became the fifth player in major league history to make an Opening Day start in each of his first 20 seasons, joining Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. …

Julio Teheran threw a two-inning simulated game on Friday with the Angels reserves in Long Beach. Teheran, who tested positive for the coronavirus in June, missed the first two weeks of camp this month. …

Dylan Bundy is set for his Angels debut on Saturday afternoon. Although Bundy’s numbers in Baltimore didn’t live up to expectations, he pitched well in spring training and summer camp, and he said on Friday that he’s optimistic. “Yeah, spring training. 2.0 went good,” he said. “All the offspeed stuff was moving the way I wanted to. I was locating decent. You always can do better at locating the ball as a starting pitcher, but I’m excited for this season to start and to get out there. First time in red, so should be exciting.”

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