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Angels sign Cozart to three-year deal

Career shortstop shows versatility with willingness to shift to third base
MLB.com @mi_guardado

Zack Cozart had been mentally preparing himself for the possibility of playing second base for the Angels when he received a call from general manager Billy Eppler on Wednesday. Eppler explained that he had an opportunity to acquire second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers, so he wanted to gauge Cozart's willingness to shift to third, a position the longtime shortstop had never played professionally.

"When I found that out, I was a little shocked because everything was happening so quick," Cozart said. "But at the end of the day, I want to win."

Zack Cozart had been mentally preparing himself for the possibility of playing second base for the Angels when he received a call from general manager Billy Eppler on Wednesday. Eppler explained that he had an opportunity to acquire second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers, so he wanted to gauge Cozart's willingness to shift to third, a position the longtime shortstop had never played professionally.

"When I found that out, I was a little shocked because everything was happening so quick," Cozart said. "But at the end of the day, I want to win."

On Friday, Cozart agreed to a three-year, $38 million deal with the Angels, who continued their busy offseason by adding an All-Star infielder to beef up their lineup and deepen an already impressive defensive unit.

Angels' stacked lineup a credit to Eppler's skill

Cozart, 32, is coming off a career season, batting .297 with a .933 OPS, 24 home runs and 63 RBIs in 122 games for the Reds in 2017. Cozart, a career .254 hitter, attributed the success to some tweaks to his batting stance. Instead of starting with his hands high, Cozart began resting his bat on his shoulder during his set-up, which he called a "game-changer."

Video: CIN@MIL: Cozart smacks a solo homer to left-center

"It freed me up mentally," Cozart said. "I didn't have tension, I didn't have to think about anything than seeing the ball and hitting or taking a good pitch."

Though Cozart exclusively played shortstop during his seven seasons in Cincinnati, he found that few teams had openings at the position when he hit free agency. One of the only teams that did, the Padres, filled their shortstop void by acquiring Freddy Galvis from the Phillies on Friday. Less than an hour later, the Angels announced they had signed Cozart to play third base.

Get to know Cozart's bat, glove and donkey

Eppler said Cozart's openness to playing two positions affirmed his confidence that the Angels were targeting the right player.

Video: Guardado on Angels signing Cozart, him playing third

"That right there made me feel extremely good," Eppler said. "Not only that we'd get the right player from an ability standpoint, but we got the right player from the character standpoint."

Cozart said he plans to seek advice from Eric Chavez, a special assistant with the Angels, and former big league third baseman Scott Rolen as he prepares for his move to third. He will also be available to back up both middle-infield spots, which is key since the Angels are seriously considering moving to a six-man rotation as part of their plan to accommodate Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani.

Video: Zinkie discusses fantasy impact of Cozart on Angels

"If we do go with a six-man and carry 13 pitchers, versatility and flexibility will be everything for this roster," Eppler said. "That played a part in the construction of the roster."

Cozart will join an infield that already includes shortstop Andrelton Simmons, catcher Martin Maldonado and Kinsler, all of whom have won Gold Glove Awards. The Angels' outfield also features Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton, who were Gold Glove finalists this year, and Mike Trout.

"We know from a run-prevention standpoint, we have a chance to have a pretty special infield," Eppler said.

Video: Eppler on Angels signing Cozart, moving to third base

The addition of Cozart, a right-handed hitter, leaves the Angels with a heavily right-handed lineup, as Calhoun, Ohtani and Luis Valbuena are the only lefty bats among the club's regulars.

The move also creates a crunch at first base, where the Angels have Valbuena, C.J. Cron and Albert Pujols on their depth chart. Valbuena and Pujols are currently projected to garner the majority of the starts there, which could make Cron expendable.

"We don't have to fill that out right now," Eppler said. "We'll let the rest of the winter play out before we start figuring exactly how that stuff is going to fall."

After playing alongside Joey Votto in Cincinnati, Cozart said he is looking forward to joining forces with another baseball superstar in Trout. Cozart's friendship with Votto will continue to be memorialized in the form of a special gift, however. Last Spring Training, Votto told Cozart he would buy him a donkey if he made the All-Star team, a promise Votto fulfilled in July after Cozart earned a trip to his first Midsummer Classic.

"The donkey is actually still in Cincinnati at the place originally," Cozart said. "I guess it was too young for me to take home. I was waiting to see what happened this offseason. Now I got to get some land. The donkey will be staying around Cincy, and now that I can start looking for some land, I'll officially be a donkey owner."

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

Coming off a breakout season that included 24 homers and an impressive .297/.385/.548 slash line over 507 plate appearances, Cozart would have been a shallow-league option regardless of his free-agent destination. But by landing with a revamped Angels club, the veteran could be in position to record 80 RBIs and 100 runs scored if he secures a premium lineup spot amongst Trout, Upton and Kinsler. Meanwhile, the recent additions of Kinsler, Cozart and Ohtani further solidify Trout as a lock to go first overall in all formats and Upton as a desirable early-round selection.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels, Zack Cozart

Get to know Cozart's bat, glove and donkey

Woe be to anyone trying to hit a single through the infield against the Angels next year, because the team is absolutely stacked after the team acquired Ian Kinsler and then signed free-agent shortstop Zack Cozart to a three-year $38 million deal on Friday.

Because Cirque du Soleil performer Andrelton Simmons is already at shortstop, Cozart is going to slide over to third. As the Angels clearly have their sites on toppling the Astros in the AL West and winning the 2017 World Series, here's what you need to know about Cozart: 

Angels' stacked lineup a credit to Eppler's skill

Halos' GM fortifies roster by landing Ohtani, Kinsler and Cozart in 8-day span
MLB.com @philgrogers

Welcome to the offseason of Billy Eppler.

The Angels' third-year general manager added Zack Cozart as his third baseman on Friday, capping a frenetic eight-day period that includes the Angels winning the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes and a trade for second baseman Ian Kinsler, who filled the team's biggest hole.

Welcome to the offseason of Billy Eppler.

The Angels' third-year general manager added Zack Cozart as his third baseman on Friday, capping a frenetic eight-day period that includes the Angels winning the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes and a trade for second baseman Ian Kinsler, who filled the team's biggest hole.

Video: Angels' lineup gets new look with multiple additions

All of this followed Eppler throwing an extra season at Justin Upton so that Upton wouldn't exercise the opt-out clause in his contract. The deal set the recent events into motion, demonstrating that owner Arte Moreno's franchise is acting with a sense of urgency in trying to surround Mike Trout, the game's best player, with a team that can get him back into the postseason.

There's still some work to be done for sure, mostly on the pitching staff. But the lineup that the Angels have put together should be one of the best two-way collections in the game.

Cozart, who has agreed to a three-year contract, is a perfect fit. He's played shortstop exclusively in his first seven seasons and is coming off his best showing. He ranked fourth among Major League shortstops with a 5.0 fWAR, just ahead of new teammate Andrelton Simmons (4.9).

Simmons long ago established himself as maybe the game's top defensive shortstop and had a breakthrough season at the plate in 2017, hitting .278 with 14 homers. Heading into his age-32 season, Cozart is a solid shortstop (+2 Defensive Runs Saved this season, down from +8 in 2016 and +19 in 2014) who projects to be strong defensively at third.

It's a bit of an unknown, but a solid defensive shortstop should be able to make the transition just fine. The White Sox Yolmer Sanchez was +8 DRS last season, the Reds' Eugenio Suarez (with the Tigers) was +5 DRS and the Mets' Asdrubal Cabrera was +1 DRS. The Astros won the World Series with a converted shortstop (Alex Bregman) at third base.

The combination of Simmons and Cozart gives manager Mike Scioscia one of the strongest left sides in the game, which fits right in with the theme. Kinsler didn't have a great year at the plate last season (a career-low .725 OPS even though he hit 22 home runs) but was one of the game's best defensive second basemen, using his hands and his experience to make highlight-reel plays on a regular basis.

Video: Must C Combo: Iglesias, Kinsler wow on defense

With catcher Martin Maldonado, Simmons, Kinsler and Trout, the Angels are about as strong as you can be up the middle. Cozart makes this an excellent infield (although that could be tested if the Ohtani signing pushes Albert Pujols onto the field for more than the six games he played at first last season).

Cozart was a tease throughout his stay in Cincinnati, and he leaves there in a way that's unproductive for the Reds. Because few teams were looking to upgrade at shortstop last summer, general manager Dick Williams held onto Cozart even though he was using a three-for-two time share between second base and shortstop with Cozart, Scooter Gennett and Jose Peraza.

While Cozart had a breakout season at the plate (.297/.385/.548 with 24 home runs), the Reds didn't make him a qualifying offer. Mike Moustakas might have created more of a buzz, but Cozart fills the need nicely and leaves more resources to pursue pitching upgrades.

Video: Cozart discusses joining Angels, desire to win

A couple weeks ago, Angels assistant general manager Steve Martone told MLB Network Radio that the Angels weren't prioritizing the addition of a third baseman because they expected a bounce-back season from Luis Valbuena. He struggled in the first season of a two-year deal, hitting .199 with 22 homers and a .727 OPS.

Valbuena could be a big part of the Angels' success next season. He drove the ball better in the second half of the season than just about any time of his career, and his left-handed bat and versatility will play a huge role given that Kole Calhoun is the only left-handed-hitting regular.

Video: LAA@HOU: Valbuena rips a go-ahead two-run double

With Ohtani, Trout and Simmons on the same roster, the Angels were going to be a blast to watch. The addition of Cozart and Kinsler just might give fans a chance to watch them in October.

They're not one of the super teams yet. But thanks to everything Eppler has had his hands in, they're one of the super interesting teams, for sure.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels, Zack Cozart

Kinsler trade fuels Angels' fruitful Meetings

MLB.com @mi_guardado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels capped a productive Winter Meetings by adding to their bullpen depth with the selection of right-hander Luke Bard during the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

The move came less than 12 hours after the Angels addressed their biggest need of the offseason by announcing the acquisition of veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers for Minor League prospects Troy Montgomery and Wilkel Hernandez.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels capped a productive Winter Meetings by adding to their bullpen depth with the selection of right-hander Luke Bard during the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

The move came less than 12 hours after the Angels addressed their biggest need of the offseason by announcing the acquisition of veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers for Minor League prospects Troy Montgomery and Wilkel Hernandez.

General manager Billy Eppler and his staff now head back to Southern California with just a few items left on their offseason shopping list. The bulk of the Angels' roster improvements are already in place, with left fielder Justin Upton, Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, veteran reliever Jim Johnson and Kinsler secured for next season.

Shop for Angels gear

"I'm liking the groundwork that's been laid and feel that we're bringing in guys who have performed in big environments and played on teams that have had some pressure to them," Eppler said Thursday. "I like the look of our club. I like the character of our club, and we'll just see where it all falls."

Hot Stove Tracker

What's next
Friday's signing of shortstop Zack Cozart to a three-year, $38 million deal fulfilled the Angels' next quest, to provide depth in the infield, as Cozart committed to a move to third base. Because the Angels seem to be leaning toward using a six-man rotation next season and would thus be limited to a three-man bench, they are putting a higher priority on players with positional flexibility this offseason, upping Cozart's appeal.

Video: Eppler on Angels signing Cozart, moving to third base

"If we do go with a six-man and carry 13 pitchers, versatility and flexibility will be everything for this roster," Eppler said. "That played a part in the construction of the roster."

Rule 5
The Angels picked up Bard in the Major League phase and also added shortstop Riley Unroe and right-hander Matt Ball in the Minor League portion.

Video: Eppler discusses selecting Bard in Rule 5 Draft

Right-hander Damien Magnifico -- the Angels' No. 30 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com -- was selected by the Pirates in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

GM's bottom line
"It's hard to gauge if anything [else] is close, but we're just keeping an open mind and trying to remain opportunistic." -- Eppler

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels

Upton key cog to vault Halos' offense

Slugger coming off career-high 35 HRs, .901 OPS in '17
MLB.com @mi_guardado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Three months ago, on the day the Angels were eliminated from postseason contention, manager Mike Scioscia identified one hole that he believed would demand the club's focus this offseason.

"The obvious talking point this winter is going to be our offense," Scioscia said.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Three months ago, on the day the Angels were eliminated from postseason contention, manager Mike Scioscia identified one hole that he believed would demand the club's focus this offseason.

"The obvious talking point this winter is going to be our offense," Scioscia said.

It didn't take the Angels long to take a significant step toward bolstering their lineup. On the first day of the offseason, the club announced that it had re-signed left fielder Justin Upton to a five-year, $106 million contract, adding an extra year to his deal to entice him to stay in Anaheim instead of using his opt-out clause to test free agency.

Video: Upton signs five-year extension with the Angels

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and the Angels are hoping to receive boosts from a fit Albert Pujols and three newcomers, Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani, veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler and All-Star infielder Zack Cozart, in 2018. But the key to the Angels' offensive turnaround could ultimately be a full season of Upton, who offered a snapshot of his potential impact in September after being acquired from the Tigers in exchange for pitching prospects Grayson Long and Elvin Rodriguez.

Upton, 30, batted .273 with a .901 OPS, a career-high 35 home runs and 109 RBIs in 152 games between the Tigers and the Angels last season. Seven of his home runs came with the Angels, who ranked last in the American League with a .397 slugging percentage in 2017.

Video: Must C Clutch: Upton's two homers carry Halos

"You're going from a left fielder [Cameron Maybin] who hit six [home runs] for us to hopefully a left fielder who is going to hit 36 for us [next] year," Scioscia said Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.

Along with giving the Angels another middle-of-the-order bat to pair with Trout, Upton is also expected to bring long-term stability to left field, a position the club has struggled to fill since Josh Hamilton's departure. In 2015, Angels left fielders posted a .574 OPS, the worst in the Majors at that position. The following two years weren't much better, with a .628 OPS in '16 and a .699 OPS in '17. Upton, who has a career .828 OPS over his 11 seasons in the Majors, should finally help break the streak of futility.

"Justin embodied our offensive philosophy, which is to get on base and hit the ball hard," general manager Billy Eppler said in November. "He's shown a knack for doing that. He's got the power and the on-base skills that we covet, as well as the character and the professional approach necessary to be a key member of our core moving forward."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels, Justin Upton

Angels select Bard from Twins in Rule 5 Draft

MLB.com @mi_guardado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels selected right-hander Luke Bard from the Twins' Triple-A roster during the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

In the Minor League portion, they lost right-hander Damien Magnifico, who was ranked as the club's No. 30 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, to the Pirates, and the Halos took shortstop Riley Unroe from the Rays and right-hander Matt Ball from the Rangers.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels selected right-hander Luke Bard from the Twins' Triple-A roster during the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

In the Minor League portion, they lost right-hander Damien Magnifico, who was ranked as the club's No. 30 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, to the Pirates, and the Halos took shortstop Riley Unroe from the Rays and right-hander Matt Ball from the Rangers.

:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::

Bard, 27, logged a 2.76 ERA over 65 1/3 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester in 2017, averaging 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Bard was a first-round Draft pick of the Twins in 2012, and he is the younger brother of Daniel Bard, a former pitcher for the Red Sox.

"He's got power stuff," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. "A plus secondary pitch, the ability to miss bats. We're going to give him an opportunity to make our club."

Bard's selection will cost the Angels $100,000. If he doesn't stay on the team's 25-man roster for the full 2018 season, he must be offered back to the Twins for $50,000. The Angels now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

The Angels left Magnifico exposed to the Rule 5 Draft by leaving him off their 40-man roster last month. The 26-year-old reliever was acquired from the Orioles in May, but he made only one appearance for the Halos and struggled at Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 6.82 ERA over 34 1/3 innings. In August, Magnifico was outrighted off the 40-man roster and demoted to Double-A Mobile, where he recorded a 3.18 ERA over 11 1/3 innings.

Unroe, 22, batted .206 with a .614 OPS in 95 games between Class-A Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery in 2017. He was a second-round Draft pick of the Rays in '13. Ball, 22, recorded a 5.67 ERA in 33 1/3 innings for Class A Hickory last season. He was originally selected by the White Sox in the 11th round of the 2013 Draft.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels

Angels get Kinsler in deal with Tigers

Club trades two prospects for All-Star second baseman
MLB.com @mi_guardado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels plugged the biggest remaining hole on their roster Wednesday, acquiring veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers in exchange for two Minor League prospects.

Kinsler, 35, was the most established second baseman available on the trade market, though he is coming off a down year, batting .236 with a .725 OPS, 22 home runs and 52 RBIs in 139 games with Detroit in 2017. A four-time All-Star and an American League Gold Glove Award winner in 2016, he has hit .273 with a .789 OPS and averaged 23 home runs over 12 seasons in the Majors.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels plugged the biggest remaining hole on their roster Wednesday, acquiring veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers in exchange for two Minor League prospects.

Kinsler, 35, was the most established second baseman available on the trade market, though he is coming off a down year, batting .236 with a .725 OPS, 22 home runs and 52 RBIs in 139 games with Detroit in 2017. A four-time All-Star and an American League Gold Glove Award winner in 2016, he has hit .273 with a .789 OPS and averaged 23 home runs over 12 seasons in the Majors.

The Angels will take on the entirety of Kinsler's $11 million salary in 2018, the final year of his contract. The price for him was outfielder Troy Montgomery and right-hander Wilkel Hernandez, who were ranked as the Halos' Nos. 20 and 24 prospects, respectively, by MLBPipeline.com.

Video: Duquette discusses Kinsler going to Angels

The Angels were interested in acquiring Kinsler last summer, though they ultimately swung a trade with the Braves for veteran Brandon Phillips, who is now a free agent. General manager Billy Eppler said he has watched Kinsler play for a "long, long, long time," and he believes Kinsler can still perform to his standard levels despite his downtick in production in 2017.

"The people that we task with evaluating those things, both on-field evaluations and a little more metric-based evaluations, gave us some optimism that he's better than that line," Eppler said. "I think he knows that. We believe in him as a player."

The Angels were among the 10 teams on Kinsler's no-trade list, but he approved the trade after speaking with Eppler over the phone. In Anaheim, he will reunite with ex-Tigers teammate Justin Upton, who signed a five-year, $106 million deal to return to the Halos earlier this offseason, as well as his former manager Brad Ausmus, who joined the Angels' front office last month as a special assistant to the GM.

Eppler consulted Upton and Ausmus before making the trade, with both of them giving a "thumbs up" for Kinsler.

"He's a pretty complete baseball player," Eppler said. "Hits for average, has selectivity, can impact the baseball, plays outstanding defense, runs the bases well, phenomenal in the clubhouse, great teammate, from everything I've heard about him."

Video: Sherman on Angels' acquisition of Kinsler

Kinsler will also partner with shortstop Andrelton Simmons to give the Angels one of the elite double-play combinations in the Majors. The club's up-the-middle defense now features three Gold Glove winners in Kinsler, Simmons and catcher Martin Maldonado, as well as Mike Trout in center field.

"I like defense," Eppler said. "I like scoring runs and preventing runs. I'm excited to watch these guys play."

The Angels have struggled to get production out of their second basemen in the past couple of years, as their .592 OPS at the position ranked last in the Majors this past season. Last offseason, the Halos made a similar trade with the Nationals for Danny Espinosa, who provided above-average defense but underwhelmed at the plate, leading to his release in July.

Though Kinsler represents another short-term solution, he did not cost the Angels any top prospects. Montgomery, 23, was an eighth-round Draft pick in 2016, and he batted .271 with a .771 OPS and reached Double-A Mobile in 2017. Hernandez, 18, recorded a 2.64 ERA over 44 1/3 innings across two Rookie levels last season.

"Detroit got two really good players in this deal, but we felt that we were positioning the club to be a strong club next year," Eppler said. "This was the opportunity that presented itself, so we took it."

Video: Fred Zinkie on Angels' Kinsler trade

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Kinsler was a productive mixed-league option in 2017 despite a .236 average brought down in part by batted-ball misfortune (.244 BABIP), posting 22 homers, 14 steals and 90 runs scored. The four-time All-Star should go in the mid-rounds of mixed-league drafts this spring on the expectation that he will provide a solid batting mark with a triple-digit runs total as a table-setter for sluggers Trout and Upton.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels, Wilkel Hernandez, Ian Kinsler, Troy Montgomery

Winter Meetings interview with Scioscia

MLB.com

Q. Do you feel more popular this year than ever before for any reason?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No. Is that it?

Q. What are your feelings about the general functionality of a six-man rotation in modern Major League Baseball?

Q. Do you feel more popular this year than ever before for any reason?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No. Is that it?

Q. What are your feelings about the general functionality of a six-man rotation in modern Major League Baseball?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's in talking in more narrow terms, like our situation, it is certainly something to consider. As far as where Major League Baseball's going with starting pitching, if it's more functional to have a six-man, I think it totally depends on the makeup know of your team and your rotation. Some guys have proven that they're not as functional with too much rest in Major League Baseball and some guys thrive on the extra day.

So I think that there's a lot of variables still to say does it make sense or doesn't make sense, I think in individual cases with teams it's going to make more sense than other teams. So in the broader sense where Major League Baseball's going from a six-man rotation from where they went four to five 50 years ago, I don't know if we're at that point or not.

Q. As far as your own roster, the suitability for that, are you still assessing it or what do you think?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: It's certainly something to consider, yes.

Q. Could you see yourself on opening day unveiling a six-man rotation?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't think we made any decision yet, but there's a lot of things being considered.

Q. Have you talked to any of other starters about this concept?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Not so much as to -- I think if we get close and we think it's something that's going to help us, I think we will totally introduce it to everybody, so we can keep their understanding how that whole mechanism in your rotation can work. But at this point we're internally trying to assess it and see just see where we're going to be.

Q. How much of a challenge for you do you think it will be to balance both of Ohtani's endeavors next season?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't think it's going to be a challenge, I think it will be an opportunity to use some creativity. I don't think that it's going to be a situation where you have to do this or you have to do that. In baseball you much rather have parts you're trying to use than to try to find parts to use. So I think with Shohei there's going to be a balance there of pitching and hitting, and we'll assess it and go into Spring Training and have an idea and make sure he's ready in Spring Training with enough at-bats, and certainly pitch counts will be where it needs to be and hopefully hit the season, hit the ground running.

Q. Are you handling Spring Training any differently at the start because of the elbow injury?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No, I think that's -- I think that's pat him and our understanding is there is no restrictions at all going into Spring Training and he'll get down there in plenty of time and be ready to go.

I like your tie, man you out-tied me. I thought I had the tie, I would win the tie game but I don't know that one's pretty good.

Q. Do you expect him a normal like six turns through in Spring Training?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I would think that Spring Training is a little bit, a little tighter this year because of report dates. But I think that in most of the projections we have and with split squads and the availability to pitch in the minor leagues, to be ready, that you're looking at, you would be looking at definitely six starts. I don't think we would go any shorter than that.

Q. Do you feel confident that he can be productive enough to hit all year or is going to be a sort of a month to month evaluation with his offense?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think that any player is when they're struggling they might lose a little bit of time, when they're doing well they might get more time so how that flow's going to go we don't have a crystal ball but we definitely have the confidence that this guy can swing the bat, that he can impact you on the offensive side and also be a frontline starter. So there's a lot of things to consider.

Q. Last week of this season you said that offensive improvements were definitely needed for your club as it went to 2018. Obviously Ohtani has potential at the plate, but do you feel like further offensive improvements are still in need?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes. I think one of them is signing Justin Upton. You saw Justin Upton hit what 30 how many home runs last year he only had five or six for us.

Q. I'm not sure, he hit a lot though?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: He hit a lot but I'm saying for us. So you're going from left fielder who hit six for us to hopefully a left fielder who is going to hit 36 for us this year. So some of it is I think some of it is starting to fill that basket, but do I do see more and I think we'll get there.

Q. Do you think that having a deeper lineup could give you the opportunity to give Pujols maybe a few more days off, and if you do that, he could be more productive when he does play?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: With any player you're going to balance days off with not breaking their rhythm if they're going well. I don't think -- I certainly don't think there's anybody on our roster that was run into the ground last year. Guys when they needed days off, they got it. We had a lot of guys that played a lot of baseball, but I don't think it will be any different than any other player.

Q. How important do you think it is for Albert to improve his physical conditioning this winter?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, he's working on it. I think he will. I think a lot's been said about Albert and a lot's been said about the minimalization of driving in runs. But I can tell you that's an important part of our of what our team needs and Albert drove in a lot of them for us last year. So as far as like where he needs to be this year, sure, I think that he's going to get a full offseason of conditioning and as opposed to rehab, so you would expect that to lead to him coming into Spring Training with a little more strength than he maybe had before when he was rehabbing. How important it is to his production, he knocked in over 105 runs for us last year and if he comes in he's a little strong earlier because he's in better shape, you can look for the same production.

Q. What's your understanding of Ohtani's elbow situation?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Just no restrictions with Shohei. The only understanding we have is really just something that's behind him. There's no concern, and there's no restrictions. He'll be full go in Spring Training.

Q. Does the idea of a possible six-man rotation help with him in his transition do you think?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: It's something we're considering. I think, as we just said, I think that some rotations function better with pitchers pitching on normal rest, five days' rest which has become the norm. Or I should say four days' rest, pitching on the fifth day. Some guys certainly have a track record of being more effective when that happens. With Shohei, there's a lot of things we're going to consider about how many starts he's going to get and where he's going to fit in our rotation. We haven't made any determination but certainly something to consider.

Q. Billy has described the six-man idea as sort of moral responsibility he feels to keep pitchers healthy and if keeping them on a more elongated schedule will keep them healthy, then he feels like he has to do it. Where do you stand on that sort of issue?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, I think it's something we're considering. Billy has in our conversations hasn't said anything about something he has to do, that we have to do. It's something we're considering.

Q. Do you think it keeps pitchers healthier?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: There will be less workload for a pitcher. I don't think you ever put a pitcher out there at risk. There's a lot of pitchers that have handled 200 innings a year, 33 starts, and never looked back. They're fine with it. And there are some pitchers that have a problem getting to 170 innings. They might, it might be neutral as far as keeping some guys healthy, but make them less effective, it might be a positive in keeping some guys more effective or excuse me, more healthy or healthier and might make them more effective.

So I don't know if there's any macro that you're going to set up right now and say it's definitely going to be best out of a six-man rotation. It's something we're considering and there's a lot of things we're considering.

Q. How difficult would it be to go all or most of the year with a 13 pitchers and only 12 position players? If that's part of a six-man rotation?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: If we make that decision I think that Billy's already put in a lot attention, if that's the route to go, into what the makeup of your roster would be. And there's a lot of teams in our league that had three-man bench all year, which is what you would be talking about. So it can be done.

Q. Your team has suffered a lot of pitching injuries in recent seasons?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yes and before, before then very few. For 17 years before then or 16 years before then, so.

Q. So should I take that to mean that you believe it's an aberration?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think that there are some things that have happened with our staff that could be cyclical. I can guarantee you that every year we look into it to see what's going on, and how we can improve and we have done this since day one, that I've been here, and the last two years there's no doubt that some of the things that happened were extraordinary in a rotation. We looked at this from about every angle you can, have some very, very bright people looking at it, and when there are some adjustments to be made, we have and when it's been worked out that it's just a cyclical thing that happens in pitching, there's not much you can do about it. But yeah, we have looked at it, no doubt.

Q. Has there been any consideration of using him the way you did sort of as a spot starter, (inaudible)?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Yeah, there's a lot of different ways that I think Shohei can be used and we certainly want to get him out there as many times as we can to have him pitch because he's a premium talent on the mound, and we're going to try to get him as many looks as we can in the batter's box because he can really hit. So we're going to consider a lot of different things.

Q. Could you share a couple of those better ideas you've had so far?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, there is a lot of things on paper that we're looking at but right now this could change in two weeks, could change the first month of the season. It could change at any time. The only definite is we're certainly committed to getting him a look as a two-way player, as a hitter and a pitcher. Now how many at-bats that translates to, how many starts that translates to, we don't have a crystal ball but we're going to work through it.

Q. Where do you see him batting in the lineup?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Let's get him out there and get everybody together and see where he fits in.

Q. How do you plan or what is his daily schedule for Spring Training camp?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: He's going to have a schedule much like a regular player, where we do defensive fundamentals in the morning, we'll do individual skill work and also we'll do team fundamentals before we hit. At the time that we have done our individual skill work, our team fundamentals, guys have thrown their bullpens, every pitcher will do his conditioning and be done for the day. Shohei's day will continue with batting practice and bunting and all the things you need to do in the batter's box, the baserunning component.

So he won't have any longer day than Mike Trout or Andrelton Simmons, because this is what a regular player does, for instance, but instead of taking ground balls at shortstop, Shohei's going to be working on fundamentals that a pitcher uses. So the timing won't be any more, it will be like a regular player but it will be, there will be a little more workload for him to get ready than anybody else that's in our rotation, obviously.

Q. Have you thought about him hitting on the days that he pitches?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: He's only done that one time I believe.

Q. No, about a dozen times.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: His last game in I think he did it, but very rarely has he hit on days that he's pitched.

Q. That was last year. Two years ago when he was hitting he did about 10 or 12 times?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Right, but it's --

Q. When he was healthy.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: But yeah, that's less than half a start. So I think that the thing about being an American League team if you commit to that, and you forfeit the DH from the beginning of the game, there are some certain strategic things that can come up and be -- and not work, but we're not going to rule it out.

Q. You're not going to rule it out?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Not going to rule it out. Not going to rule anything out. There's a lot to sift through.

Q. Given the amount of information available now do you think the modern day player understands the game better than players in previous generations or do they just use different language to talk about it?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think, like all of us, we understand like what we have been seeing now why it's happening and a lot of things have been quantified for us that weren't 20 years ago. I think that a Major League player has access to a lot more data than ever. So from the coaching component it's important for us to take the data, see how we can a play it, and to each player's game, to make them more proficient and a lot of the data is not really going to be functional to a player, wins above replacement, all the things that we're talking about that are kind of in the macro are not really going to affect the player.

But the amount of data he gets specifically on exit velocities if you're a hitter, spin rates if you're a pitcher, these are all applied that quantify things that a lot of even hitters were kind of trying to surmise as they were in the batter's box. Where do I hit the ball the hardest, what pitch should I look for. A lot of this is much easier for them to get that information and grasp it now. So it's all important.

Q. So your answer is for the most part yes, you think they do understand the game better?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: They understand why some things happen, yes. There's no doubt. They understand, like they understand not only do I hit the ball harder when the pitch is in this location but why they hit it harder. The swing analysis has again a long way in the last 20 years and now it's even taken some huge steps forward in the last two years.

So all this is making players better prepared, the information helps them to maintain a my level of play that is hopefully more consistent, so I guess the short answer is, yes and our job is to take the information and really translate it into a format that players can apply and one thing about being in the batters box, if anybody here's ever played baseball you understand the need to react and not the need to read. If you give players too much information that is filling their mind and they can't get in that zone they want to be in, that can be counterproductive so it has to be balanced.

Q. Ohtani is, he's very fast also, is that something that you can really utilize as a tool or do you want to kind of protect him a little bit in that sense?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: No, I think that if he is going to play baseball, he's going to play baseball. Like any player, you want him to go out there and play as aggressively as they can. So if he's running the bases, just like the rest of our guys on the team, you want him to you know the bases aggressively and he does have very, very good speed. What situations come up where you might be able to utilize his speed, that remains to be seen, but if he's playing baseball and he's DHing and he's on the bases, he's a runner. He's not a pitcher, not a hitter, he's a runner. So we want to apply that.

Q. Other than talent, the ability obviously to hit and pitch at an elite level what do you think are the factors that have kept a two-way player from emerging before? Is it the wear and tear on the body, is it not enough hours in the day to polish those skills?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: As close as we got I think that Boch used Bumgarner I think one time to DH in a game, we haven't seen much of it. Back 50 years ago when there was no DH, pitchers hit on the day that they would hit. I think it is a difficult proposition to do two things at a Major League level as far as being a high-level pitcher and then flipping and being a high-level hitter, which you have to be because of Major League hitters on the team, there aren't many of them. There's only so many of them and most of these guys are really proficient. So you have to be better than those guys to warrant getting at-bats.

Why it hasn't happened as much, I have to think about the physical demands of what it takes to pitch a ballgame, and also most pitchers were on a four-man rotation, so there wasn't a lot of time in between, 50 years ago, for a guy to get into the lineup and play another position and just didn't happen.

So historically you have DH's that are really, really good hitters and most pitchers aren't going to hit better than your DH, so it probably hasn't come to the surface as much, but we'll see. I think with Shohei, what we're projecting him to do is going to be very unique and it could be something that's extraordinary. So we're going to take it one step at a time and we'll see.

Q. What do you think the obstacle of that has been convention you have a guy like Micah Owings with the Diamondbacks, terrific hitter, pitcher as well, but it doesn't sound like except for some pinch-hitting appearances here and there it was much for a push for him to get regular at-bats?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: It's tough to do when you're a pitcher. It's easier said than done. There's recovery time, there are times when you're not feeling good, plus to really gauge it, you are talking about as a pitcher, is a pitcher going to be able to pitch and get 600 plate appearances to really see if he has an impact. That's a tall order.

So I think just the functionality of, are you going to pitch and still be able to hit or are you going to be like the kid from Cincinnati playing the outfield and coming in and pitching a little bit. There's different, there's probably different balances you have to look at. So why it hasn't happened, I think that it's tough. Will Shohei be starting a trend? I don't know. We'll see. To be proficient in Major League level at pitching and hitting enough to where you're out there getting 400 plate appearances and starting 30 games, that's a tall order and I think Shohei knows it, we know it, and we're going to see how this thing blossoms.

Q. You're a fairly old-school manager, what finally got you around to the idea of trying it?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Define "old school".

Q. Older than 45.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, my age is older, but I don't think you ever stop growing in this game. I don't think you ever lose your creativity in baseball in this game and I think that this is an opportunity for all of us to get creative with a special two-way talent and that's what we'll look to do.

Q. There's talk already about Spring Training and you've been thinking about the starts and whatnot. Has there been any discussion about transitioning Shohei from the Japanese style Spring Training, which is much more intense but with days off and they use that, those days as recovery days. Is he going to have to slow him down a bit and then has there been a discussion of that?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Our pitchers, we have built-in days off for guys even though our schedule might have a day, you'll see our guys are go through very limited work out. I've never heard of a pitcher saying they don't get enough days off in Spring Training. These guys, it's a Life of Riley, it's nice. Do you know what Life of Riley is, are you that old or are you not old enough?

So that's not going to be an issue. There's certainly a there's definitely a benefit to a recovery day, our guys, we do it all the time and just try to pace guys up to where they have to be when the season opens and Shohei will be no different.

Q. So there will be a dialogue with him?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: We're starting to get information from him, we have already talked about to whatever extent we could what his usual routine is to get ready in bullpens, get ready for a season, and we'll continue to get information and put together a program that is tailor made for him and that's what we do with every pitcher.

Q. How did you find out about the signing and what was your reaction?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Billy told me and I was excited.

Q. What kind of second baseman would you like to have?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: You talking about Shohei at second?

Q. No, moving on. You need a second baseman, I think.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, we're looking at depth in a number of areas. I think we have some guys that started to improve as second basemen, Kaleb Cowart made a lot of strides, but I think our overall team and our overall depth on the offensive side needs to be addressed, and if there's going to be somebody at second base that can be a little bit more of an offensive force, I know that Billy's going to consider it. But certainly not with breaking down what is a core strength of our club is our defense up the middle. We're terrific up there and I don't think that Billy wants to mess with that chemistry.

But that being said, there's a need for offense on our club, that's for sure.

Q. Speaking of core strength, do you think Kole Calhoun was totally healthy last season and what are you expecting from him?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think if you looked at some numbers, it wasn't as down as you think. I'm talking about internal numbers. But he definitely came back and said he felt great. He was running well. So all the markers were to say he was over that surgery he had in the off-season a couple years ago. But I don't think his season was that out of balance to question was he a hundred percent or was he healthy. Every player's going to be a little nicked up but I think Kole did a lot more for us and when you look at some of his internal numbers, they're really close to what you would anticipate.

Q. Is there anything that Martin Maldonado has been told to do to prepare for another 120 games next year as opposed to the first time last year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think can you train to be an astronaut all you want, until you get to outer space you don't know what it's like. He's done it now. I think he understands what he needs to do and what he needs to do to be ready for his season and I think he trained well and I think he held up well. He played a lot. There's no doubt. When you play that much, especially on the offensive side you're going to feel it a little bit because your arm's going to get tired, we have all been there. I thought he held up remarkably well and in the things he needed to do behind the plate he did on a nightly basis.

Q. Who do you envision batting leadoff next year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Let's wait until we get all our pieces together and then we can kind of juggle them and see how they're going to fit. As a team I think it's pretty easy to see where some of our shortcomings was, our on-base percentage wasn't what it should be, our slugging percentage, our walk rate was fine but our batting average was low as a team which affected some of those other numbers. So if you look at our general OPS and what we're looking for, we're looking, not as much OPS but just on base from a guy who leads off, and then we can move it down and get to the middle of our guys, with guy on base hopefully and see how it goes. But who that guy's going to be right now it's a little early to see.

Q. How concerned are you about the trying to replace what Yusmeiro Petit did last year?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Y was incredible for us. I think that there's other guys who are going to get an opportunity to do some of the things that he did. It's definitely one void that we feel very comfortable with we can fill but it's not, certainly not taking for granted what he did because he was remarkable for us last year.

Q. Where do you see Jim Johnson fitting into your bullpen?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think that Jim's a guy that has a lot of experience, his arm is still really good, I think there's some things from analytical basis that we feel we can do to help him. And all the other markers in his game are good, his velocity is good, he spins the ball very well, so where he fits in, again, let's see what the whole unit looks like and then we can take one step at a time.

Q. What you do mean by analytical things you can help him with?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: There's some things like just on his some of his pitch usage, some of his spin rates on different grips, things that maybe a pitcher doesn't sense they're not as proficient as maybe they feel they are. Or some things they feel is not working that really does lineup to work much better. This is kind of the analysis I think that's helped a lot of guys on our staff.

Q. What was your relationship with Josh Paul like?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: JP? Yeah.

Q. What do you think makes him a good bench coach?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I don't know if I can say it exactly the way I feel it, but we have like a big brother-little brother relationship. I shake my head at him sometimes and I think he gets pleasure in kind of poking me a little bit here or there. One thing about JP is he's got a tremendous baseball intellect. He's very bright, he's hungry to learn, and I think that his personality blends in just with our group of guys and what's important in setting environment. So we're excited to have him.

Q. Is this like coming next season going to be more like an, I don't know, an experiment season, like testing season?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I sure hope it's not an experiment. I don't want, I don't know if we want to be experimenting with a championship run. But I think in regards to having a unique player like Shohei, there are going to be some things that we're going to look at that maybe haven't been done in baseball here in the United States, but it's things that he's done in Japan, so therefore our comfort level that's going to be able to come and compete is very high. I don't look at it as an experiment. I think like any player can you call any season an experiment where you're trying to shuffle a lineup or you are looking at some things, but we have a real good idea that Shohei's going to be able to do the things that we're going to ask him to do. Hopefully it's going to be very, very successful season for us and lead us to a championship and he's going to be part of that for sure.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels

Angels reaffirm confidence in Ohtani's health

Eppler says two-way star will enter spring with no restrictions
MLB.com @mi_guardado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One day after a report set off alarms regarding the soundness of prized acquisition Shohei Ohtani's right elbow, the Angels reiterated their confidence in the Japanese two-way star's health.

"The only understanding we have is [it's] really just something that's behind him," manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings. "There's no concern, and there's no restrictions. He'll be full go in Spring Training."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One day after a report set off alarms regarding the soundness of prized acquisition Shohei Ohtani's right elbow, the Angels reiterated their confidence in the Japanese two-way star's health.

"The only understanding we have is [it's] really just something that's behind him," manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings. "There's no concern, and there's no restrictions. He'll be full go in Spring Training."

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Video: Ohtani received preventative procedure in October

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

Yahoo Sports reported late Tuesday that Ohtani has a first-degree UCL sprain in his throwing elbow, an injury that could put him more at risk for Tommy John surgery. Ohtani received a platelet-rich plasma injection to relieve elbow pain in October, according to the report, though the treatment was disclosed to all Major League teams during the recruitment process.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Ohtani underwent a thorough physical examination at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles last Thursday before he signed with the Angels, and MRI scans revealed that the 23-year-old's right elbow "looked consistent with pitchers at his age and usage level."

"It is not out of the ordinary for a player to get a PRP at the end of a season," Eppler said Wednesday. "I'm ecstatic to have the player, as happy as anyone in baseball."

Hot Stove Tracker

Ohtani, who is now back in Japan, has been playing catch, and Eppler said he texted him on Tuesday night with the help of Google Translate.

The Angels are still in the process of finding a full-time interpreter for Ohtani. Eppler said he has collected a few resumes, though he does not expect to conduct interviews until after the Winter Meetings. Eppler said he plans to introduce several candidates to Ohtani, who will have the opportunity to give his input before anyone is hired.

Video: Scioscia ready to get creative with Ohtani in mix

Worth noting
• The Angels would like to bolster their corner-infield situation, and they have some flexibility because of Luis Valbuena's ability to play both first and third base. Eppler said he doesn't have a preference for where Valbuena is primarily deployed, though he told him to be prepared to play more third base.

The New York Post reported Wednesday that the Angels are among the 10 suitors for free-agent infielder Todd Frazier, a right-handed hitter who can play first, third and potentially even some second base. The 31-year-old Frazier, a New Jersey native like Mike Trout, batted .213 with a .772 OPS, 27 home runs and 76 RBIs in 147 games between the White Sox and the Yankees last season.

• Eppler said it's "hard to say" whether the Angels will be active in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels

Trout gets married in a winter wonderland

Mike Trout has had quite the past few days. On Friday, Shohei Ohtani announced that he would be joining him in the Angels' lineup (and rotation) next season. And that was just the appetizer: Trout also got married over the weekend, and if the first wedding photo is any indication, it was magical.

Angels may use Ohtani in 6-man rotation

Club ponders options to maximize two-way star's impact
MLB.com @mi_guardado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With Shohei Ohtani in tow, one of the questions the Angels are now weighing this offseason is whether a six-man rotation would be the best way to fold the Japanese two-way star into the Majors next year.

General manager Billy Eppler is open to the possibility, though he has not yet broached the idea of an expanded rotation to the rest of his starters. Eppler said he expects a decision to be made before pitchers and catchers report to Tempe, Ariz., on Feb. 13 for the start of Spring Training.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With Shohei Ohtani in tow, one of the questions the Angels are now weighing this offseason is whether a six-man rotation would be the best way to fold the Japanese two-way star into the Majors next year.

General manager Billy Eppler is open to the possibility, though he has not yet broached the idea of an expanded rotation to the rest of his starters. Eppler said he expects a decision to be made before pitchers and catchers report to Tempe, Ariz., on Feb. 13 for the start of Spring Training.

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"If we, in fact, go that route, I will have conversations with them," Eppler said Monday during Day 1 of MLB's Winter Meetings.

A six-man rotation would be an attractive option for the Angels for a few reasons. First, the configuration would be more similar the one Ohtani experienced with the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan, where pitchers take the mound every seven days instead of the traditional five-day cycle in the Majors.

Injuries have ravaged the Angels' rotation the last two seasons, so an extra day of rest could also help keep the rest of the club's starters healthy, including Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez.

Ohtani missed most of this past season with a right ankle injury, and the 23-year-old has never pitched more than 160 2/3 innings over a single season in Nippon Professional Baseball, which has a 146-game schedule. Ohtani underwent surgery on his ankle in October, but Eppler said the 23-year-old is not expected to face any restrictions come Spring Training.

Video: Angels, fans welcome Ohtani for the very first time

One challenge of moving to a six-man rotation would be that the Angels would have room for one less position player on their bench, as Eppler said he would like to maintain a seven-man bullpen. Such a scenario could prompt the Angels to prioritize players with more positional flexibility this offseason.

"I always put a premium on flexibility, but the utility of that is a little bit more evident right now," Eppler said.

One potential free-agent target for the Angels could be infielder Eduardo Nunez, a right-handed hitter who could platoon with Luis Valbuena at third base as well as play second and shortstop. Nunez, 30, batted .313 with an .801 OPS and 12 home runs over 114 games with the Giants and the Red Sox last season, though he missed time with a hamstring injury.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels

Eppler lauds staff for tireless pursuit of Ohtani

Angels' front office got 'locked in' to land two-way star
MLB.com @mi_guardado

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Shohei Ohtani chase sparked a full mobilization of the Angels' front office and led to a few sleep-deprived nights for general manager Billy Eppler, whose efforts were rewarded last week when Ohtani chose to come to Anaheim after drawing fervid interest from around the league.

Eppler said many of his lieutenants had to cut their Thanksgiving holidays short in order to help craft the Angels' written response to the questionnaire distributed by Ohtani's agency, CAA, which asked clubs to describe how the two-way phenom would fit into their organizations. On two occasions, Eppler said he stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning texting assistant general manager Jonathan Strangio to review the final edits for the document.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Shohei Ohtani chase sparked a full mobilization of the Angels' front office and led to a few sleep-deprived nights for general manager Billy Eppler, whose efforts were rewarded last week when Ohtani chose to come to Anaheim after drawing fervid interest from around the league.

Eppler said many of his lieutenants had to cut their Thanksgiving holidays short in order to help craft the Angels' written response to the questionnaire distributed by Ohtani's agency, CAA, which asked clubs to describe how the two-way phenom would fit into their organizations. On two occasions, Eppler said he stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning texting assistant general manager Jonathan Strangio to review the final edits for the document.

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:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

"Thank God he's an English major," Eppler said.

The Angels learned they had made it past the first round around 11:15 a.m. PT last Sunday and were told they would have the opportunity to make a two-hour presentation to Ohtani the following night at 7. Eppler said he slept only three and a half hours as he and his team scrambled to prepare their pitch.

"Nothing about this was standard," Eppler said. "My whole group locked in. Everybody was all hands on deck. They worked their tails off so that we could make this a reality."

While the Angels are willing to accommodate Ohtani's desire to become a two-way standout in the Majors, Eppler said they made no long-term guarantees regarding his future as both a right-handed pitcher and left-handed-hitting slugger.

"Right now we're going to bring him in and he's going to do both," Eppler said. "Let's just see where it goes. We don't make any promises. But he knows our position at the outset, and he knows our commitment to his development. We know he's not a finished product."

Worth noting

• The Angels would like to add a fourth outfielder to back up Justin Upton, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, though Eppler said his staff is still debating whether they should target a particular handedness of hitter for the opening.

They have bolstered their internal outfield depth by signing right-handed-hitting outfielder and former top prospect Rymer Liriano to a Minor League contract. Liriano, 26, has batted .220 with a .580 OPS in 150 career plate appearances in the Majors. He appeared in 21 games for the White Sox last season.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels

Ohtani joked that he wanted Trout's number

Turns out, Shohei Ohtani isn't just a talented pitcher, outfielder and hitter. He's got another skill, too: Telling jokes. Is there anything he can't do?

At his Angels unveiling on Saturday, Ohtani donned his new No. 17 Angels jersey, but explained that it wasn't his first choice.