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OC Register: Angels manager Joe Maddon says Ohtani’s confidence grew by staying in Sunday’s game


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ANAHEIM — To hear Joe Maddon tell it, Shohei Ohtani didn’t just achieve something physically on Sunday.

He expanded his mind.

The Angels manager repeated on Monday the reasons that he left Ohtani out to pitch as long as he did in his first start of the season. One of the reasons was to help Ohtani gain the confidence of getting out of a jam.

“Right now he knows he can go five (innings) and 90 (pitches), and he knows that on that 90th pitch or so he can throw a split that strikes out a really good hitter at a crucial moment,” Maddon said. “He knows that now. That’s mind expansion.”

Ohtani was at 78 pitches after he walked No. 2 hitter Adam Eaton with two outs in the fifth inning, with reigning MVP José Abreu up next. Considering that it was Ohtani’s fourth walk of the game, to go along with a hit he’d allowed earlier in the inning, no one would have questioned if Maddon had pulled Ohtani right there.

He left him out to pitch to Abreu, who he walked on seven pitches. With Ohtani now at 85 pitches, Maddon left him out to face Yoan Moncada.

Ohtani struck out Moncada on his 92nd pitch, but the ball got away from catcher Max Stassi, who made a throwing error trying to get Moncada at first. Two runs ended up scoring on the play, with Ohtani and Abreu colliding at the plate.

Certainly, if Stassi held that third strike, there wouldn’t be as much debate over the decision to let Ohtani keep pitching.

Maddon said it shouldn’t have been a debate. Aside from wanting Ohtani to gain confidence, he didn’t think Ohtani was losing anything. His 91st pitch was 100.9 mph.

“The stuff didn’t wane,” Maddon said. “That’s what you’re looking at. I’m looking at him throwing the ball. I’m looking at the numbers. It’s pretty good. I couldn’t, in that moment, bring anybody in that I felt more confident about than him, regardless of being at 90 pitches.”

Ohtani was not in the lineup on Monday, although Maddon said he campaigned to at least be available to pinch-hit. Maddon said he expects Ohtani to be back at DH on Tuesday. He said they’ll continue monitoring him to pencil in his next start.

ROTATION FLIP FLOP

The Angels have flipped Dylan Bundy and Griffin Canning in the rotation, so Bundy will start on Tuesday afternoon against the Houston Astros and Canning will start on Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first game of the trip.

They made the switch after Canning got loose in the bullpen on Sunday night because he was going to pitch if the game went to extra innings. The Angels’ bullpen was a little short because Maddon wanted to give Tony Watson, Mike Mayers and Chris Rodriguez the night off after their workloads earlier in the weekend.

A SPOT FOR ROJAS

There are no doubt plenty of fans and friends of José Rojas eagerly waiting for the 28-year-old Anaheim native to make his first big league start.

They are going to have to keep waiting.

Maddon said he still doesn’t have a plan to get Rojas his first start. He did get him in as a pinch-hitter on Friday night.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Maddon said. “There are a lot of guys playing well right now, but I want to see this guy in a game. I believe he’s a major league player who can be very impactful to us.”

The Angels have David Fletcher at second, Anthony Rendon at third and Jared Walsh and Albert Pujols at first. Those are Rojas’ primary positions. If shortstop José Iglesias gets a day off, Rojas could play second when Fletcher moves to shortstop.

NOTES

The Angels’ alternate site squad is scheduled to play 16 games in April against the Arizona Diamondbacks team. Last year teams could only play intrasquad games at their alternate sites. The Dodgers and Padres also have alternate site teams in Arizona, but the Angels are playing only against the Diamondbacks to limit their potential COVID-19 exposure. The minor league regular season is scheduled to begin in early May. …

The Angels traded Kyle Keller to the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations. Keller had been designated for assignment last week.

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