The LA Angels second game of the season turned into a classic pitching duel between two classy lefties — classic in the 21st century sense, in that neither starter went even seven full innings despite pitching extremely well and not in any trouble at all.
LA Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs had such a brutal Spring Training (13 earned runs in just 11 innings), there was talk that he would not have made the team coming out of Arizona had Andrew Heaney not gotten hurt. However, in his first start of 2018, he goes 6.1 innings, allowing just three hits and struck out five. His curveball dotted the outside black of the strike zone all night, effectively setting up a fastball that got into the mid-90s. Skaggs’ outing gives us the most important takeaway from Game 2:
A big rotation won’t slow the quick hook
Mike Scioscia may be planning on giving starters an extra day of rest between outings, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to push the starters on their game days. The Angels come into the season with 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster, and eight relievers is a hilarious number of short-inning arms to juggle. After last season, when the Angels only had one pitcher go more than 150 innings and nearly every starter was either coming off an injury or leaving because of one, Scioscia is being extra cautious with his starter, and it’s hard to blame him. Also, with baseball in 2018 being what it is and anyone can homer off anyone at any time, Scioscia’s always going to be looking at platoon advantages.
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On the other hand, if he’s counting on three or four relief innings every single game, bullpen churn will be a real problem sooner rather than later. Keynan Middleton and Blake Wood both pitched their second day in a row, and Wood looked none too reliable, needing Martín Maldonado‘s golden arm to get him out of the inning. Middleton and Wood, and Bedrosian and Ramirez and Alvarez and — as we saw tonight — Blake Parker are not the 2015 Kansas City Royals bullpen. There are no four guys with guarantees in the Angel pen. The bullpen door is going to be a revolving one.
The big bullpen also means a light bench, and that brings other problems. With the A’s starting lefty Sean Manaea, the Angels used Chris Young instead of Shohei Ohtani at DH, which meant the only outfielder left on the bench was… Shohei Ohtani, who last played outfield professionally in 2014. Imagine if Kole Calhoun, after making that spectacular diving catch in the 6th inning, came up gimpy and needed to leave the game. Who was going to take his place? Ohtani? Not likely. Luis Valbuena, who hasn’t been in the outfield since 2013? And if Valbuena had gone into the outfield, what happens when someone else has to get pulled, like Ian Kinsler did in the 9th?
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The Angels are taking a big risk with such a small bench and such a big pen. With Ohtani unavailable for Saturday in preparation of a Sunday start, the Angels will be down to just two guys on the bench for Saturday’s Game 3. One of those guys will probably be Kinsler, who was already nursing a balky groin, so right now, Chris Young will be the only healthy body available off the bench for tomorrow.
Don’t anyone get hurt now.
Once Heaney regains full health, it will be easier to gauge where the pen, and the roster in general, should go. For the time being, the big picture is still muddied by uncertainty, and that leaves the Angels with very little wriggle room if someone sprains an ankle.