Maddon would understand if a player opts out

June 24th, 2020

ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Joe Maddon held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday and said he hasn't heard that any Angels players or staff intend to opt out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jessica Trout, the wife of three-time American League MVP Award winner Mike Trout, is pregnant and due in August, but Maddon said he hadn't been told anything about Trout potentially opting out, adding that he would respect the wishes of any players or staff who do decide to opt out for health reasons.

"I have not heard anything, and I would imagine if that were the case, you'd hear about it in the near future," Maddon said. "None of the players have spoken to me about that, and [general manager] Billy [Eppler] hasn't told me about any players who are even considering that right now. But if it doesn't happen, we'd understand. The individual needs to be considered right now."

Maddon addressed a variety of topics during his 30-minute conference call, and here are a few of the highlights:

Ohtani healthy and ready to go
Two-way star Shohei Ohtani was declared healthy by Maddon after undergoing Tommy John surgery and left knee surgery. Maddon said he anticipates Ohtani pitching once a week, just as he would during a normal 162-game season. But it doesn't sound like the Angels want to take the risk of using Ohtani as the designated hitter on days he pitches just yet, as he'll DH roughly three to four times a week. It also means the Angels will open the year with a six-man rotation.

"With him, I haven't really thought about a more aggressive stance," Maddon said. "It's going to be more like I thought. But once we get through workouts, we'll see how it goes.

Canning, Peña healthy
Right-handers Griffin Canning and Félix Peña are both healthy as well after Canning had an injection in his right elbow in March and Peña underwent ACL surgery on his right knee in August. Maddon said it improves their pitching depth but they're not alone with several other clubs in similar situations.

"It's a difference-maker for us," Maddon said. "But there are a lot of teams in the same category as us now. I'm anticipating good things from all these guys and we'll see how it plays out."

Maddon being diligent about his own health
Maddon, 66, is considered at-risk for COVID-19 due to his age, but he said he's made a point to exercise daily and use supplements to try to boost his immune system. Maddon understands the risks of managing the club amid the pandemic, but he said he's fully on board with the return to baseball. He's also scheduled to get an antibody test, as he was ill in October with symptoms similar to COVID-19.

"You can never think you're bulletproof or invincible," Maddon said. "I've just tried to prepare mentally and physically. Working out. Supplements. I'm not concerned in the sense that I've prepared myself. I want to manage, I want to be there, I want to be part of the solution to what's going on. I want boots on the ground and that's been my message the whole time."

Roster likely to be 50 percent pitchers
With the new roster rules, the Angels will begin the season with a 30-man roster and a 20-man taxi squad, and Maddon said he anticipates roughly 25 of those on the roster to be pitchers. He also believes he'll be more aggressive with his use of relievers because of the shorter season. Maddon said you have to treat every game like a playoff game because the season is so short.

Mentality is key
Maddon believes that being mentally tough is important, especially with the shorter season and the pandemic still being an issue country-wide. He said the players have to buy in to the fact that the season will be "inconvenienced and uncomfortable" but will use that to their advantage.

"We have fight through that," Maddon said. "Those who learn those two concepts will do better. I don't see things being too difficult. Just inconvenient and uncomfortable. But just know that and wear that every day. The advantage would be the mindset."