One of the Spring Training battles on the Angels squad has been for the role of the fifth starter. But that looks to be a non issue now that the Angels appear set to begin the season with a four man rotation. They have done this in the past and with an off day scheduled for Thursday April 9th, they don’t need a fifth starter until the fourteenth when they’ll be playing the Texas Rangers in Arlington.
The main reason they’ll be employing the short rotation is because neither of their candidates forced their hand by having a stellar spring. It’s still likely that Garrett Richards will need more time to be ready than on that first go around when a fifth stater is needed. So, Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney will be continuing their battle for Anaheim at the Triple-A level. And, even though it may only be for one start since Richards should be ready to go after that, if they perform and either C.J. Wilson or Hector Santiago don’t then they could take their spot.
Tropeano looks to be the more likely candidate in my opinion as he is a steadier presence with a greater likelihood to keep you in the game and give the team a chance to win. This spring he has looked like a capable fifth starter as he’s produced a 3.58 ERA in his 10.1 innings pitched. His stuff doesn’t carry as high of a ceiling as Heaney but his mental game appears ready. And, as we saw from Shoemaker last season that carries more weight sometimes, especially for inexperienced players.
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When I talked with Mike Trout last week, without hesitation he named Andrew Heaney as the new player he was most impressed with this spring. That speaks volumes about his potential but his numbers don’t match the high praise. In 19 innings he gave up an unsightly 19 runs. His Strikeouts were good at 16 but with big innings haunting him his inexperience is clear and further time at Triple-A is the right call for now. That proverbial switch just hasn’t clicked but when it does he’ll be far better than a fifth starter. An article in the OC Register quotes him as recognizing that a part of his problem is in his ability to put batters away. It sounds like he is one of many young pitchers who still needs to garner more trust in their capabilities.
The Angels have more depth in their rotation this season than in recent memory. Some of that extra depth will allow them to carry an extra bullpen arm, likely Jose Alvarez. With such a long season ahead of the team that depth will get tested and despite their inability to appear off the bat there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing more of Heaney And Tropeano this season.