LA Angels fans won't like prized free agent Robert Stephenson's injury update

Well, this isn't good.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Robert Stephenson
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Robert Stephenson / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Angels signed Robert Stephenson to a three-year, $33 million contract earlier this offseason after the former first-round pick enjoyed a successful campaign with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2023.

Unfortunately for Angels fans, the early returns are in, and they're not good. Stephenson is dealing with a shoulder injury. And while the right-hander is confident that he'll pitch in games this spring, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Stephenson doesn't know if the injury will afford him enough time to be ready by Opening Day.

If Stephenson is a no-go for Opening Day, that'll be a major blow to the Angels bullpen. While the club re-signed Matt Moore and made some other additions to the relief corps, Stephenson is expected to be a fixture in the back of the Halos' pen in 2024.

LA Angels fans won't like prized free agent Robert Stephenson's injury update

Stephenson, who was originally signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and traded to the Rays at midseason last year, had a tremendous showing once he arrived in Tampa. In 42 appearances, Stephenson recorded 60 punchouts over 38.1 innings of work with an 0.678 WHIP. One could make the argument that Stephenson was one of the best relievers in baseball over the second half of the season.

His success with the Rays is what got Stephenson, who was previously seen as a failed starter, that massive three-year deal from the Angels. And while Stephenson's contract contains a clause that would add an extra year to his deal in the event he were to undergo Tommy John surgery, there's no such proviso as it relates to shoulder fatigue.

Carlos Estévez is expected to be the Angels closer during the upcoming season, but Stephenson is seen as the bridge to get the Halos to the ninth inning with a lead, along with Ben Joyce and Jose Soriano.

The news is concerning, but it isn't awful. Hopefully the Angels are just being cautious with their newest multi-million dollar relief pitcher. Los Angeles opens the season on March 28 in Baltimore against the Orioles, so the Halos and Stephenson have some time before a decision needs to be made about whether or not he'll be included on the Opening Day roster.