The Los Angeles Angels announced on Sunday that Oklahoma City native Andrew Heaney will be their Opening Day starter.
Joe Maddon didn’t waste time in naming an Opening Day starter for 2020. A day after telling reporters he plans on instructing his pitchers not to throw at the Astros this season, the team announced Andrew Heaney will take the hill for their opener in Houston.
Heaney was one of the Angels’ most outspoken players about the Astros’ cheating scandal.
"“Somebody in that locker room had to say, ‘This is (expletive) up. We shouldn’t be doing this.'” Heaney said, according to The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya. “For nobody to stand up and nobody to say we’re cheating other players, that sucks. That’s a (expletive) feeling for everybody. I hope they feel like (expletive).”"
Heaney was more subdued in talking about his Opening Day assignment on Sunday. He told reporters that he doesn’t think intentionally putting guys on is the right way to go about winning a game.
This will be the fourth different Opening Day starter over the past five seasons and the fifth straight without returning to the same starter as the season before for the Halos. With Ohtani injured, the team hasn’t had a bona-fide number one to kick off the season since Jered Weaver (apologies to a healthy Garrett Richards).
Heaney showed flashes of brilliance last season, his strikeout percentage ranking among the likes of Jacob DeGrom and Charlie Morton. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to just 95.1 innings of work. He also struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark, resulting in an ungodly HR/FB rate of 18.3%. He finished the season with a disappointing 4-6 record and an ERA that nearly touched five.
How important is the Opening Day starter?
Ceremoniously, very important. There is just something special about being named the starter for Opening Day, as if that pitcher cradles all of the hope from the offseason in their glove before delivering the first pitch. It usually signifies that you are the best pitcher on the staff, an Ace.
In reality, Opening Day is just one day on the schedule, and the order of the rotation stops mattering until the playoffs begin. As long as pitchers are getting their starts every fifth day, they are happy.
For the Halos, they could have named any of Julio Teheran, Andrew Heaney, or Dylan Bundy their first starter. As the old adage goes from football, when you have two quarterbacks, you really have none. The Angels have a staff of competent starters, many could be #2 or #3 pitchers, but none are prototypical Aces (at least until Ohtani shows he can stay healthy).
Joe Maddon will work with what he has, hoping that giving the nod to Heaney, the longest-tenured member on the Angels’ rotation, will help jumpstart his season.
Before injuries derailed his 2019 campaign, the tall left-hander looked ready to take the next step as a top of the rotation starter, making it fascinating to watch how Heaney’s 2020 season unfolds.