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OC Register: Jose Rojas continues to hit, but waits for opportunity to reach big leagues with Angels


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TEMPE, Ariz. — Jose Rojas continues to fight to show that he’s more than the prototypical “Four-A player.”

So far Rojas has proven that he’s too good — in the batter’s box, at least — for Triple-A, but he has yet to get the opportunity to show if he can hit in the major leagues.

“I’ve always felt like I’ve been ready,” Rojas said. “It’s a matter of opportunity. That’s obviously out of my control. I’ve just got to keep working.”

Rojas is 28 years old, a former 36th-round pick and has yet to settle in at a defensive position. He’s also never been added to the 40-man roster, and no other team has bothered to take him when he’s been exposed to the Rule 5 draft.

All of that adds to the narrative of him being continually overlooked, despite a career .852 OPS in the minors. In his last full season at Triple-A, in 2019, he hit .293 with 31 homers and a .938 OPS.

In his second big league camp this spring, Rojas is 8 for 20 with two homers. He’s also walked 10 times. The sample is obviously small, but that adds up to a 1.331 OPS.

“Jose has lit a lot of people up,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “His bat plays. It’s played for a long time… Every place this guy has gone, he’s hit. And he’s going to continue to do so. There’s no doubt in my mind. So now it’s defense.”

There’s the big issue for Rojas. A shortstop at Vanguard University of Southern California, Rojas has mostly played first, second and third in the minors, with some left field.

“His main position will always be the left-handed batter’s box, but now he’s proving or showing that he can do some other things,” Maddon said.

Maddon has compared him to Daniel Murphy, Mike Moustakas and Tommy La Stella at various times this spring. Each of them were primarily known for their offense, and they were shoehorned in at different spots on the field just to get them into the lineup.

First or third are the best positions for Rojas, but at this point his ticket to the big leagues at either spot would require an injury to Anthony Rendon, Albert Pujols or Jared Walsh.

If Rojas could play second well enough to fill in for three or four days in a row if one of the middle infielders has a nagging injury, suddenly he could become an option for the utility middle infield spot most likely to go to Luis Rengifo or Franklin Barreto.

Maddon concedes that the “imagination stretches a bit” to see Rojas doing that, but he believes he’s capable.

“You’re going to have to absorb some gaps, no question,” Maddon said, “but in the past with other guys, you have to absorb some gaps. This is a really good bat.”

If the Angels were to give Rojas a shot at the big leagues, it would certainly thrill the fans. Perhaps because he was born in Anaheim, Rojas has developed a cult-like following of fans who are constantly clamoring for him to get an opportunity.

“The story speaks for itself,” Rojas said. “At the end of the day, it would be a dream come true to put on the uniform at the Big A and help the team win.”

A BREAK FOR OHTANI

Shohei Ohtani was not in the lineup for three days in a row because he told Maddon that he could use a break. Ohtani is scheduled to pitch on Sunday, so he likely would not have played on Saturday, but he could have played on Thursday or Friday.

The Angels have said this year they are removing the firm restrictions on Ohtani’s playing time, but that only works if Ohtani will be honest about when he needs the time off.

Maddon said the conversation this week was encouraging in that respect.

“I believe he’s smart enough to keep the big picture in mind,” Maddon said. “He’s looking not only at right now, but beyond that. How is this going to shape up when the season begins?… I like it. He did talk to us. I’m good with it. It was perfect.”

Ohtani is scheduled to work four or five innings in Sunday’s start against the Padres.

ALSO

Alex Cobb is scheduled to pitch in a B game on Sunday. This will mark the second time that the Angels have had Ohtani and another starter working on the same day, and both times Ohtani pitched in the main game and the other pitcher worked in a B game or intrasquad game. …

Aaron Slegers, who is out with back spasms, is still feeling better but remains listed as day to day. Slegers was expected to be a part of the Opening Day bullpen, but the time missed because of his back has left his status in question. …

Luke Bard, who has been out with a hip issue, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday. Bard does not have time to be ready for Opening Day, although he was likely to start the season in the minors anyway. …

Brandon Marsh is scheduled to play center field in the B game tomorrow, which would be his first game action in the outfield this spring. Marsh has been battling a shoulder issue that limited him to DH duty.

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29 minutes ago, AngelsWin.com said:

 

Shohei Ohtani was not in the lineup for three days in a row because he told Maddon that he could use a break. Ohtani is scheduled to pitch on Sunday, so he likely would not have played on Saturday, but he could have played on Thursday or Friday.

The Angels have said this year they are removing the firm restrictions on Ohtani’s playing time, but that only works if Ohtani will be honest about when he needs the time off.

Maddon said the conversation this week was encouraging in that respect.

“I believe he’s smart enough to keep the big picture in mind,” Maddon said. “He’s looking not only at right now, but beyond that. How is this going to shape up when the season begins?… I like it. He did talk to us. I’m good with it. It was perfect.”

Ohtani is scheduled to work four or five innings in Sunday’s start against the Padres.

And so it begins.

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Rojas is one of those guys that I honestly wish the Angels would trade. I love the narrative of local kid makes it to the big leagues, but I just don't think the opportunity is there for him in Anaheim. But then again, no one has wanted him in the Rule 5 drafts, so perhaps there just isn't a lot of interest in him, even amongst teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh who have nothing to lose. 

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1 hour ago, Second Base said:

Rojas is one of those guys that I honestly wish the Angels would trade. I love the narrative of local kid makes it to the big leagues, but I just don't think the opportunity is there for him in Anaheim. But then again, no one has wanted him in the Rule 5 drafts, so perhaps there just isn't a lot of interest in him, even amongst teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh who have nothing to lose. 

Dude rakes, we need his lefty bat incase Walsh was a fluke or Pujols/Rendon get injured.  Also not directly related but Fowler has not earned his spot on the roster, I hope Maddon doesn't let the past consume him.

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