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OC Register: Angels might use top pitching prospects in the bullpen

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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels are going to be facing some interesting bullpen decisions as they try to figure out their roster for Opening Day.

Felix Peña and Aaron Slegers, both projected to be a part of the bullpen, are dealing with injuries, although there was good news on both Friday.

Still, questions about their availability prompted questions about whether the Angels would consider top prospects Chris Rodriguez and Reid Detmers for the bullpen. Manager Joe Maddon said both are possibilities.

A spot in the bullpen for either would be a significant jump. Detmers was the Angels’ first-round pick in June and has still not pitched a regulation game as a professional. Rodriguez has pitched just three games – at Class-A – over the past four seasons. A back injury and the pandemic have wiped out most his development.

This spring, though, both have been impressive in brief appearances.

“He’s good, real good,” Maddon said of the left-handed Detmers.

As for Rodriguez, Maddon said if the right-hander did make the team out of the bullpen, they would have to monitor him closely, not only because of his inexperience but because of his injury history.

“I think if you were to take somebody like that, you’d have to be prepared to really be kind of frugal in between appearances, to make sure that he does have time to recover,” Maddon said. “You can’t get greedy with a guy like that if you were to take him.”

Meanwhile, the injury situation may not be so dire that they need to do anything drastic.

Peña has a hamstring strain that is expected to cost him two to four weeks, but on Friday Maddon said Peña was doing “a little better than the staff had anticipated. That doesn’t mean anything’s changed in regards to when he’s coming back, but they just felt that his work’s been pretty good.”

Slegers has been out with back spasms. He was scheduled to pitch Thursday, which would have been his first Cactus League game in nearly two weeks, but he felt some tightness and was scratched.

Maddon said Slegers was “better” Friday, but they needed to evaluate him further to see if he could be ready by Opening Day.

“Let’s give it a brief period of time forward from here and see where he’s at,” Maddon said. “Being a relief pitcher is different than being a starter. So we’ll see. I don’t know the answer yet, except that he felt better today. I’m always optimistic. So we’ll see how that all plays out.”

The Angels also have Rule 5 pick Jose Alberto Rivera in camp. He arrived late, because of visa issues, and Maddon had said that made it unlikely the right-hander would get enough work to be evaluated sufficiently for the Angels to keep him. The injuries have not changed that apparently.

“It’s difficult for him right now,” Maddon said. “I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s pretty difficult.”

The Angels are expected to use an eight-man bullpen, with Raisel Iglesias, Ty Buttrey, Mike Mayers, Alex Claudio and Junior Guerra taking five of the spots. Jaime Barria will likely fill another, especially if an arbiter rules he is out of options.


A day after Dexter Fowler had three hits, including a homer, in four at-bats in a B game, Maddon said the performance was encouraging for a player who had slumped in the Cactus League. Fowler was scheduled to bat six or seven times, leading off each inning, but he said he was satisfied after four. “He felt pretty good,” Maddon said. “That’s what we’re looking for in a situation like that, a guy goes over there and feels like he found something. Let’s see if he can carry it back over here.” …

Referring to a discussion from a few days ago when Maddon said he’d like to see instant replay used less, he said on Friday that he’d actually like to see replay added to be used to make calls on check swings. “We just put a landing module on Mars recently. So I’d like to believe at some point we could figure out how to nail down the check swing.”

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Some optimism about Fowler. He needs to get back in sync and show that he can be trusted for a lot of right field play. He and Upton can be big positives or negatives at this point. But it would be nice to have the two veterans show that they are dependable. 

Some minor shuffling with the bullpen shouldn't be a big issue. Not a lot of difference between those guys.

Love to see Detmers progress rapidly, but he shouldn't be forced prematurely. 

Maddon seems to be taking a pragmatic, realistic view. Should be much more comfortable this season knowing all the system personnel and where they stand in relation to each other.

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