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Decisions needed for back of rotation, 26th man

@RhettBollinger
March 17, 2020

ANAHEIM -- The Angels had a few intriguing roster battles going on in Spring Training before it was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic. The back end of the rotation still wasn’t set, while the 26th man on the roster was also up for grabs. Here’s a look at those

ANAHEIM -- The Angels had a few intriguing roster battles going on in Spring Training before it was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The back end of the rotation still wasn’t set, while the 26th man on the roster was also up for grabs. Here’s a look at those roster competitions:

Back end of the rotation
The Angels named Andrew Heaney as their Opening Day starter and fellow veterans Julio Teherán and Dylan Bundy were set to join him in the rotation, but the final two spots were up for grabs, especially after right-hander Griffin Canning received an injection in his elbow. Canning was projected to be the fourth starter, and the club will know more about his injury later this month.

Two-way star Shohei Ohtani also was scheduled to return to the mound in mid-May, but now that the season will be pushed back at least eight weeks, Ohtani could be in the rotation to open the season. Same with Canning, if further testing shows that his elbow is healing properly.

5 key Spring Training takeaways for Angels

Otherwise, the Angels had several candidates for their rotation including Matt Andriese, Jaime Barria, Patrick Sandoval and Jose Suarez. Andriese had an impressive spring and looked like he might make the rotation, while Barria, Sandoval and Suarez also pitched well. Lefty Dillon Peters threw well and can serve as either a starter or a reliever, and same with right-hander Félix Peña, who wasn’t expected to be ready for the start of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

Now, Peña is likely to be healthy by the time the season starts. Andriese, Barria, Sandoval, Suarez, Peters and Peña all have Minor League options, which helps with the Angels’ flexibility this season.

26th man
With rosters expanding by one player in 2020, the Angels had to determine how their bench would shake out with a 26-man roster.

The Angels already had 11 locks among their position players: catchers Jason Castro and Max Stassi, infielders Albert Pujols, Tommy La Stella, Andrelton Simmons and Anthony Rendon, outfielders Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Brian Goodwin, designated hitter Ohtani and utilityman David Fletcher, essentially leaving two open bench spots.

First baseman Matt Thaiss appeared to have a leg up because he figures to be the backup first baseman to Pujols, especially considering La Stella didn’t have any reps at first base. Jared Walsh was also in that mix, but Thaiss fared better.

For the other spot, the Angels were considering Michael Hermosillo and Taylor Ward as extra outfielders with Luis Rengifo as a backup infielder. Hermosillo was enjoying a strong spring and appeared to have the edge, as he’s a better defender than Ward while Rengifo was better suited to play everyday at Triple-A.

Nothing was decided, however, and now the Angels will have to determine how their roster will shake out once the 2020 season begins.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.