Eppler: Health, safety 'at the forefront' for Halos

Detmers added as 56th player; intrasquad games key to development

June 30th, 2020

ANAHEIM -- Angels general manager Billy Eppler held a 30-minute conference call with reporters on Tuesday ahead of Summer Camp, which begins on Wednesday with a report date at Angel Stadium.

Eppler said no players on the roster have expressed interest in opting out at this time, and he expects all 56 players to arrive at camp without any issues. The lone Angels player dealing with an injury is lefty , who has a strained oblique, but he’s expected to be ready to go by mid-July. Two-way star is fully healthy and will be ready to pitch and hit at the start of camp.

The foreign players on the roster have chartered planes, coming from the Dominican Republic and Panama on Wednesday. And Reid Detmers, the No. 10 overall selection in the Draft, will be added to the roster as the 56th player, giving the Angels four open spots they can use to add players via trades, waiver claims or Minor League signings.

Here’s more from Eppler from his conference call:

Health and safety paramount
Eppler noted that it’s not just the players who must adhere to the guidelines set forth by MLB to avoid exposure to COVID-19, as there are many employees who also fall under the criteria of Tier 1 and Tier 2 essential personnel who interact with the players.

Eppler and manager Joe Maddon will stress to the players the importance of being safe, while veterans are also expected to step up, but Eppler said it’s on the whole organization to be diligent to try to avoid an outbreak.

“We’re going to rely on veteran players and [players] in leadership positions to set the tone with guidance from Joe and myself,” Eppler said. “It’s not just players staying disciplined. It’s everybody in Tier 1 and Tier 2, which is about 120 on the employee side in addition to the players we’re bringing into camp. Using round numbers, it’s 175-180 people who have to be disciplined. I feel very strongly about this. It’s important we do everything in our power to make sure all health and safety is at the forefront of every decision we make.”

The Angels are encouraging players to do their workouts outside instead of inside, while the couches in the clubhouse have been removed to discourage players from lingering inside. Lockers will also be spaced out to provide proper social distancing.

Intrasquad games will be key
Eppler said the Angels will begin intrasquad games roughly five to six days into camp, and that they will be important to get players ready for the start of the season and also to help prospects develop. The Angels are discussing having players arrive in two waves early in camp before the intrasquad games begin.

The Angels have also yet to decide who they will play for their three exhibition games, but the Dodgers would make sense, given the proximity between the two clubs. Eppler said the games will help his players get ready for the season, but they are also a chance for prospects such as Jo Adell to face Major League-quality pitching. He compared it to having a scout team in the NFL, as the younger players will face the top squad to get reps.

“When we begin intrasquad games, they’ll get the opportunities to get at-bats against elevated competition,” Eppler said. “I grew up around the NFL and having all those connections in the NFL, it’s that kind of concept to get our players ready and then over the course of the season. It’ll be good experience for them to face guys like Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani and Dylan Bundy.”

Eppler said the roster will likely lean heavy on pitching early in the season, when the roster is at 30 players, because the pitchers aren’t likely to get stretched out enough in the three weeks of Summer Camp.

“We have to support the pitchers,” Eppler said. “They are going to have a little less opportunity to be on the mound and accumulate pitch volume than they’re used to. So the roster will be to support that group.”