Eppler doesn't expect any additions before season

Angels general manager not worried by lack of roster flexibility

March 28th, 2016

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Angels general manager Billy Eppler is "not optimistic" about making any last-minute additions to the Major League club.

"This is going to be our group," Eppler said Saturday. "If something comes to light, then something comes to light. But we feel good about this club."

Several players are expected to become available in the coming days, either because they are out of options or were signed to Minor League contracts they can opt out of before Opening Day.

Left-handed-hitting outfielder David Murphy, who spent the last two months with the Angels in 2015, opted out of his Minor League contract with Boston on Sunday, and now the Red Sox have 48 hours to either release him or add him to the 25-man roster. He'll likely join a free-agent class that now includes left-handed hitter Will Venable (released by the Indians) and right-handed hitter Chris Denorfia (opted out of his deal with the Yankees).

But the Angels are happy with what they've seen out of Daniel Nava, who's 18-for-39, and left-field-platoon partner Craig Gentry, 14-for-41. Eppler also raved about the spring performances of Rafael Ortega and Nick Buss, critical parts of the Angels' outfield depth, as well as Todd Cunningham, who is out of options and could be lost off waivers if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster.

The Angels have three open spots on their 40-man roster, but they may not have any flexibility on their position-player roster.

If Rule 5 Draft pick Ji-Man Choi claims the last bench spot -- a seemingly likely scenario -- the Angels won't necessarily have any position players they can option if needs arise. Those who can be optioned -- the likes of Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Carlos Perez, C.J. Cron and Andrelton Simmons -- are key parts of the lineup.

Geovany Soto, Cliff Pennington and Craig Gentry can't be sent directly to the Minor Leagues. Choi must be offered back to his original team, the Orioles, if not on the active roster.

Roster flexibility is important when players suffer ailments that keep them out of games but aren't serious enough to land them on the disabled list. When that's the case this season, the Angels would probably have to play either with a shorthanded bench or bullpen.

"I'm not particularly concerned with that," Eppler said. "There are other avenues to make roster moves and to do things rather than just having players that have options."

• Hard-throwing reliever Al Alburquerque, one of the final candidates for a bullpen spot, can be optioned to the Minor Leagues. But he's also approaching five years of service time, at which point he can't be optioned to the Minor Leagues without consent.

Alburquerque will reach five years with 25 more days in the Major Leagues. It's a circumstance that could prompt the Angels to give initial consideration to one of their younger pitchers, like Greg Mahle or Cam Bedrosian, so as to not waste Alburquerque's option.

The club has not given any indication it is factoring that into its decision-making, however.

Bedrosian has struck out 17 batters in 10 2/3 innings and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said his breaking ball, the pitch he has previously struggled with, "is a bigger component." Mahle, who profiles as a lefty specialist, has given up two runs in 10 innings.

• Scioscia has yet to announce his rotation for the three-game exhibition Freeway Series against the Dodgers, but Andrew Heaney, Hector Santiago and Nick Tropeano are lined up to start those three games, respectively. The series runs from Thursday to Saturday.

The Angels then play a Sunday exhibition game against the Cubs, their ensuing Opening Day opponent, a game that will probably be pitched by Matt Shoemaker.

Garrett Richards (starting), Tyler Skaggs (pitching in relief) and Shoemaker (scheduled for seven innings in a Minor League game) are all scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Indians. Jered Weaver will pitch in a Minor League game on Wednesday, which will decide when he makes his first regular-season start.

• Early in the spring, Cron was sent to the backfields of the Angels' Spring Training complex because the slugging first baseman was having issues with his timing. He's come around lately, though. Cron has hit safely in 12 consecutive games and, after going 2-for-4 with a walk in Sunday's 11-2 win over the Padres, is batting .389 in that span.