Game 4: The Other Stuff: Shohei Ohtani was good, but bullpen needs work.
By David Peng
Everything about — and around — Shohei Ohtani’s first start dominated the Angels’ 7-4 win over the Oakland A’s, but something else happened on Sunday that are going to affect the team going forward: The bullpen.
Shohei Ohtani pitched a strong six innings, but the Angels’ bullpen was shaky again, with Keynan Middleton getting the call late to clean up Blake Parker’s mess in the ninth. Middleton, Cam Bedrosian, and Blake Wood all pitched for the third time in four days. Despite having a bullpen that runs eight arms deep, the Angels already have three relievers needing days off after just four games.
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Reliever churn is real as Mike Scioscia is apparently going to have to play “Guess Who’s Effective Today?” every time he pulls a starter. Scioscia’s already said that he wouldn’t push his starters even with the extra day of rest for them, so this is going to be an on-going problem, especially early on.
The Angels will have just three days off April and just two in May — just five days off in their first 64 games — which means the pen gang better start finding some consistency or overuse is going to set in fast. The impact of that might not be apparent in May, but they will be in August, when guys are 60 appearances in and the wear-and-tear starts contributing to dead arms or sending guys to the DL.
The talent being what it is, the only real remedy bullpen churn is good starting pitching that gets into the 7th inning. Scioscia generally likes to ease his starters into the season, keeping them on tighter pitch counts their first few starts before letting guys go deep.
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Ohtani start today was exciting on its own, but the side benefit to having a guy throw just 92 pitches after six innings is that, at some point, he’ll be going seven innings.
Next: Angels getting good pitching and timely hitting
Tyler Skaggs threw 98 pitches in his excellent 6.1 inning outing, and it’s safe to assume that he’ll be allowed to break 100 pitches by the end of the month, If the rest of the rotation is consistently effective and getting into the 7th, that, more than anything else, would alleviate the strain the bullpen’s been put under early on.