So far this season, the LA Angels rotation has been underwhelming. However, the team has finally found an answer to their starting pitching woes.
While the LA Angels’ starting pitching problems go beyond their on-field performance (Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, Shohei Ohtani, JC Ramirez, you get the point), they have found a way to adapt to the problems they’ve been facing. No, I’m not talking about top prospect Griffin Canning making a stellar debut. But rather an answer that former manager Mike Scioscia never approached in his tenure.
That answer has been use of the opener. For those unfamiliar, this is simply having a reliever start the game, pitch one inning, then be replaced by a more traditional starter.
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In theory, the opener is one of the great advantages an MLB team could use. Last year, the Oakland A’s rode the opener to 97 wins and a Wild Card berth. The Tampa Bay Rays, who use the opener more than any team, won 90 games but failed to make the playoffs due to historic seasons from the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
This year, Brad Ausmus has finally elected to test it out with the Halos. So far, after four outings, the test has passed with flying colors.
The Halos have used it predominantly when Felix Peña or Jaime Barria is starting. Both pitchers have struggled with going late into games, along with trouble facing the same batting order for a third time in one game. The opener is a solution for both of those problems.
In the four starts, Luke Bard, Hansel Robles, and Cam Bedrosian (two starts) have combined to allow no hits and, in turn, no runs. Bedrosian has allowed one walk in each of his starts, but apart from that there have been no hiccups for the openers.
Not only have the openers been effective, but it seems to be helping Peña out as well. While Barria has struggled this season regardless of his role, Felix Peña has seen a noticeable boost since the Angels began using the opener.
After struggling to get through even four good innings earlier this year, Peña has begun to really take the form of the pitcher who flashed late in 2018.
While obviously four games is too small of a sample size to change your entire organizational philosophy, the Angels need to start expanding on their use of the opener. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill could both benefit from starting their games in the second inning, especially Harvey.
While it seemed the Angels’ season was once again going to be derailed by lackluster starting pitching, Brad Ausmus has done something Mike Scioscia neglected to make a regular strategy during his tenure. And it might just make it possible for the Angels to hang in there for a potential Wild Card berth.