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Angels starting rotation is coming together as Opening Day looms

Matt Andriese, Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Matt Andriese, Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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The starting pitching rotation is coming together for the Los Angeles Angels, with the fifth starter names and the sixth-man down to two arms.

It seems like the Los Angeles Angels and questions about their starting rotation go hand-in-hand with each passing season. However, with the Halos set to begin their 2020 season on July 24th, the pitching questions are starting to get answers.

With the addition of two viable starters in Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy over the winter, and the approved health certificates for both Shohei Ohtani and Griffin Canning at the onset of summer camp, the Angels thought they had everything in view. The team would run through the shortened season with six starters, hoping to find that final arm in camp.

The process was delayed a bit, as coronavirus issues didn’t end with the return of baseball. Teheran has been unable to join the team thus far due to potential exposure to the virus. Likewise, Patrick Sandoval received his own positive COVID diagnosis and was unable to compete for the sixth spot. With the loss of their only confirmed innings-eater and one of the favorites for the last spot in the rotation, the Angels were left looking for two starters instead of one.

However, that search appears to be wrapping up with just eight days before Opening Day.

Angels name Matt Andriese as the fifth starter.

On Wednesday, manager Joe Maddon essentially named veteran Matt Andriese as the team’s fifth starter, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com.

Andriese was another of the Angels’ offseason acquisitions, coming over in a January trade that sent minor leaguer Jeremy Beasley to the Arizona Diamondbacks. A starter early in his career, the right-hander has primarily been a reliever over the past several years, occasionally getting starts as part of the opener fad that has recently become popular in baseball.

In 54 games with the Diamondbacks in 2019, Andriese authored a 5-5 record with a 4.71 ERA. However, his peripherals were much better, as his FIP of 3.72 and unusually-high .332 BABIP indicates some of his struggles were perhaps due to bad luck.

The last time Andriese was a full-time starter was 2017 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. During that season he went 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA, a 4.93 WHIP, and an 8.0 K/9. Overall, he is 14-15 with a 4.64 ERA and a 7.7 K/9 over 49 career starts. In 236.2 innings, he has held hitters to a .272/.321/.453 batting line.

While his recent track record would indicate that relief is a better choice for the 30-year-old Andriese, his veteran presence likely helped him claim the role. As a former Rays prospect, manager Joe Maddon also has some level of familiarity as well. When he was acquired, GM Billy Eppler indicated that Andriese would compete for a rotation spot as well, so Maddon naming him as the fifth starter adds some vindication to those comments.

Who will claim the final rotation spot for Angels?

With Andriese being tabbed as the fifth starter in the rotation, that leaves one final spot up for grabs. The Angels committed to using a six-man rotation earlier this summer in order to limit Shohei Ohtani to one start per week.

As of this writing, the competition seems to be down to two arms; Felix Pena and Jaime Barria. However, According to Rhett Bollinger at MLB.com, Pena appears to be the front runner as camp winds down

Primarily a reliever to start his career, Pena made the transition to the rotation when he came over to the Angels in 2018. In 19 games (17 starts) that season, the right-hander went 3-5 with a 4.18 ERA, 4.04 FIP, and an 8.3 K/9 mark. He followed that up by shuttling back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen in 2019, going 8-3 with a 4.58 ERA, a 4.52 FIP, and a 9.4 K/9.

Pena appears to wear the role of starter well. While his 3-7 lifetime mark is nothing to note, his 4.32 ERA is a third of a run better than in relief (4.67) and he has shown a propensity for containing hitters, as indicated by his .239/.309/.388 opponent batting line.

On the other hand, you have Jaime Barria. Summer camp has represented a second chance of sorts, as he was originally assigned to Triple-A Salt Lake in March before the coronavirus shutdown. Now, he’s back in big league camp and can once again find his way into the Angels rotation.

It’s been a tale of good and bad thus far for the 23-year-old Barria. After going 10-9 with a 3.41 ERA, and a 6.8 K/9 over 26 starts as a rookie in 2018, he struggled in 2019. In 19 games (13 starts), Barria was a knocked around for a 6.42 ERA, a 6.23 FIP, and gave up 24 home runs in 82.2 innings of work.

Next. 5 Questions the Angels must answer in 2020

While past performance would indicate that Pena has the inside track, both are performing well in limited action at summer camp. As such, it will likely come down to their final appearances there, perhaps in the three exhibition games next week, to determine the team’s final starter.

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