When I heard that the LA Angels were stretching right-hander Felix Pena last Spring in hopes of making him a starting pitcher I was skeptical to say the least. But then he did a good job in his 17 starts.
The LA Angels were decimated by injuries to their starting pitchers in 2018 and were looking for anyone who could possibly stay healthy and be at least somewhat effective. After never starting his whole career, Pena did that and more going 3-5 with a 4.18 ERA striking out 85 batters in 92.2 innings of work. His WHIP was a respectable 1.24 as he posted a 3 to 1 strikeouts to walks ratio (85: 28).
This year Pena went into Spring Training not sure what the future would hold. In five games Pena posted a 2-1 record with a 3.07 ERA. In 14.2 innings of work Pena struck out 25 batters and walked only eight batters. Pena was not expected to win a spot in the rotation, but thanks to his strong Spring and injuries to Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney, Pena has won the 5th starter spot with Andrew Heaney out for at least the first couple weeks.
In his final tune-up Sunday, Pena was fooling most of the Dodgers’ hitters striking out nine in 3.1 innings of work. His pitch count is the only concerning thing as he took 80 pitches to get into the fourth inning, which means if he was in the regular season he would be lucky to make it through five innings. However, throughout the Spring he has been much more efficient than he was on Sunday.
Pena’s time in the rotation may be very short as Heaney is only expected to miss a couple of starts, but you never know when someone else may go down with an injury or need to skip a start. Pena will most likely b placed in the bullpen as a long man was Heaney returns which should keep him sharp if he is pressed into service as a spot starter.
Don’t be surprised if at some point in the season Felix Pena is a regular in the rotation again like he was in 2018. Whenever this happens know that the Angels will be in good hands with their version of King Felix.