Latest threat to Angels’ pitching is not injury, but absence

Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Angels are once again dealing with issues concerning their pitching staff, but they are facing a new foe.

The Los Angeles Angels are no strangers when it comes to overcoming obstacles with their pitching staff. The team has dealt with a myriad of injuries over the past several seasons, a reality that has impeded the team’s efforts to make their first postseason appearance since 2014.

For their part, the Angels made a concerted effort to address those woes. They went about adding depth to their pitching staff through free-agent additions and trades, plucking both innings-eaters and rebound candidates off the market. The team was also dealt a winning hand when the global pandemic delayed the beginning of the MLB season, allowing two of the team’s most talented arms the chance to get healthy and be ready for opening day.

Now the team is learning that it may not be playing with a full hand.

As players have returned to summer camp and workouts have begun, the Angels’ biggest threat to their season may not be injuries, but attrition. Through Tuesday, there were still noticeable absences from camp, starting with Julio Teheran, but also extending to other potential rotation and depth options in Patrick Sandoval and Jose Saurez. Those arms are among as many as ten players that have yet to report to camp for various reasons, none of which the team is willing to comment on.

Teheran was acquired for his ability to consistently eat innings and occasionally provide front-end production to the starting rotation, making him perhaps the most important player for the Angels in 2020. A right-hander that has made 30 or more starts each of the last seven seasons, Teheran is meant to be something the Halos have missed over the past several years; a stabilizer in the rotation.

However, after not reporting to camp for the first several days, the team quietly put him on the injured list on Monday evening, along with Saurez and infielder Luis Rengifo. As no reason was provided for the move, speculation has been present that the move has been precipitated by the league’s Coronavirus protocol. As teams are unable to disclose those diagnoses without player approval, the silence on the matter leads to drawn conclusions.

The absence of Sandoval is a new twist, at least as of this morning. He was expected to be in the mix for the final spot in an expected six-man rotation, but with a late start to camp, Sandoval may have to get a mid-season opportunity.

The lefty made his debut with the Angels last season, making 10 appearances (nine starts) and going 0-4 with a 5.03 ERA, a 4.59 FIP, and a 9.6 K/9 mark. That was bloated by a rough go of things through his first four appearances, where he was knocked around for a 6.75 ERA and a .392 baBIP. His final six starts were much better, with a 3.68 ERA, a .188 baBIP, and a 9.8 K/9.

If these arms are indeed delayed and may not be ready for the beginning of the season on July 24th, the Angels will have a rotation consisting of Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani, Griffin Canning, and Dylan Bundy. Of course, that relies on the health of both Ohtani and Canning, with the former returning from Tommy John surgery in 2018 and the latter having elbow issues both at the end of last season and during spring training in March. However, both are healthy at this time and expected to be ready to go when the season begins.

The team’s desire to only start Ohtani once per week will leave two spots available, with Matt Andriese, Felix Pena, Jaime Barria, and Taylor Cole all potentially getting looks in camp if Teheran and Sandoval are unable to be ready. The Angels are also without Dillon Peters for the first few weeks of the season, as he works his way back from an oblique strain in March.

While the health and wellbeing of all the players if first and foremost the biggest concern across baseball, the absence of these players already puts a strain on an Angels team that needed everything to fall into place to contend in 2020.

"Who are the candidates for the Angels’ six-man rotation?"

Hopefully, the players and the team are in fact healthy or can at least return to good health in the near future.