Joe Maddon: Angels expecting healthy pitching staff to begin season

With the 2020 MLB season now right around the corner and teams expected to report to spring training again, the Angels got some welcomed news on the health of some of their pitchers.

If fans of the Los Angeles Angels thought that news of the Major League Baseball season finally getting underway was big news, they are about to get a whole lot happier.

In speaking with the media on Wednesday (including Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic), Angels’ manager Joe Maddon gave us some of the best news we’ve heard in a while. The Halos will enter the 2020 season with a fully healthy pitching staff that includes Shohei Ohtani, Griffin Canning, and Felix Pena.

When last we heard, both Ohtani and Canning were throwing simulated games as of early June. This was a big step forward for the pair and put them both on pace to be ready for Opening Day. Having Maddon confirm that both Ohtani and Canning were still making progress and likely at the same pace as the rest of the team is nonetheless encouraging.

As for Ohtani, Maddon also revealed that the plan is likely to limit him to the same schedule the team used during his rookie campaign in 2018. That year saw the two-way star pitch once weekly and be featured in the line-up four other times. The team will then mix in off days to keep him fresh. That worked out pretty well for the Angels and Ohtani, as he put together a 2.8 fWAR season as a hitter and a 1.0 fWAR season as a pitcher. Of course, that season was cut short by needing Tommy John surgery, but he also won the American League Rookie of the Year award in the process.

Pena, who made just one appearance this spring before the shutdown, had missed the final month-plus of the 2019 season due to a sprained knee. At the time, he was in the midst of his second season with the Halos, posting a 4.58 ERA, an 8-3 record, and a 9.4 K/9 over 22 appearances (seven starts). His versatility to both start and relieve may be a boon to the Angels in 2020, especially if they decide to go with a six-man rotation in order to protect Ohtani.

Of course, the one that will require a close look will be Canning. The right-hander looked every bit of a future rotation piece during his rookie season in 2019. However, that campaign was cut short due to elbow issues, and he was forced to shut down again this spring with what was diagnosed at the time as “chronic changes” in his UCL. He was able to avoid the knife and has seemingly used the layoff to work his way back to health to the point the Angels are counting on him to be a part of the rotation on Opening Day.

With the good news, the Angels should have an opening day rotation that includes Shohei Ohtani, Griffin Canning, Dylan Bundy, Julio Teheran, and Andrew Heaney. Talks of a six-man rotation could also see Felix Pena, Patrick Sandoval, Dillon Peters, and perhaps Matt Andriese get a shot at starts as needed.