Tight-knit Angels to be tested early in 2024

March 29th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- With their daunting early season schedule, it’s not going to get any easier for the Angels, who drew the AL East defending champion Orioles for their first series and had to face former Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes on Opening Day on Thursday.

The Angels dropped their first game by an 11-3 margin, as lefty Patrick Sandoval struggled and the offense couldn’t do much against Burnes outside of a solo homer from Mike Trout in the first inning. After Friday’s off-day, they have two more games against the Orioles before heading down to Miami for a three-game set.

Los Angeles will face several AL East teams early in the year, as it hosts the Red Sox and Rays for consecutive series in early April before going on a three-city trip through Boston, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. And then the Angels get a long homestand but have to play the Orioles, Twins and Phillies, who were all postseason teams last year.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian said the key to getting through their tough early slate is cliché but that they have to take it one day at a time.

“My expectations are to play hard every day and be prepared to play and give it everything and just worry about today,” Minasian said. “I think in years’ past, we were thinking about winning two out of three or splitting a road trip or just trying to get back home. So we’re going to stay away from all that and focus on what we need to do today and not worry about tomorrow.”

Minasian said he liked the vibes in Spring Training under new manager Ron Washington and his coaching staff, as there’s been an emphasis on accountability. He believes it’s a tight-knit group that’s determined to defy external expectations.

“There's high standards here,” Minasian said. “There's accountability and not just among the coaches and front office, but player to player it’s been more so than I've seen in the past. So it's a really motivated group and I'm excited to watch.”

Minasian added that he believes the Angels have more position player depth than recent years and pointed to the fact that Luis Rengifo, Jo Adell and Mickey Moniak were all on the bench on Opening Day. Washington will have to juggle his lineup to get enough at-bats for his five outfielders and will have to mix Brandon Drury and Rengifo around the infield. He’ll also have to find the right spots for Trout and Anthony Rendon to serve as designated hitter.

“I think this group has a lot of flexibility,” Minasian said. “We can slide Anthony or Mike in for a day. If they can stay healthy, I believe that they'll see more time at DH than they've had in the past. We have a lot of versatility to do a lot of different things. We can do things late in games that we've been through before, whether it’s pinch-run or pinch-hit in a platoon situation.”

Minasian also said he’s excited about going back to a five-man rotation after utilizing a modified six-man rotation to account for Shohei Ohtani in recent years. Right-hander José Soriano gives them additional depth in the bullpen, as he was stretched out to start this spring but will be used in a relief role for now. Soriano is expected to pitch in high-leverage situations but in multiple-inning relief stints instead of throwing one inning.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the five,” Minasian said. “There will be times where we feel like we need to slide somebody in there to push them back a day and get everybody blow. But I’m excited to see these guys pitch.”

And while Thursday’s loss was a tough one, the Angels are ready to move on and focus on their next game.

“It’s just one game,” said Trout. “We’ve got to turn the page. It was a rough one and we have to get ready for Saturday.”