TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels have plenty of optimism heading into the 2021 regular season after a successful Spring Training and are ready for showtime. Or perhaps, more fittingly, Sho-time.
The Angels also saw strong performances from their starting pitchers, especially from Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and José Quintana. And veterans Justin Upton and Albert Pujols had strong springs at the plate. It bodes well for a club that is star heavy with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Ohtani but needs the rotation and key veterans to step up.
Manager Joe Maddon has made it no secret that he believes the Angels can compete, and they appear primed to contend for their first postseason berth since 2014.
“We're trying to put together a team that we believe has a chance to go deeply into the playoffs and get to the World Series this year,” Maddon said.
It’s undoubtedly Ohtani showing that he’s back to his form in 2018, when he won American League Rookie of the Year honors before a slew of injuries derailed his progress. Ohtani is now healthy after Tommy John surgery in ’18, a left knee operation in ’19 and a forearm/elbow strain in ’20 that limited him to two starts on the mound.
The Angels plan to be aggressive with Ohtani. He’ll be a normal member of their six-man rotation and will serve as designated hitter roughly three to five times a week. He even batted leadoff during a pitching start against the Padres, which is something he could also do occasionally in the regular season. The Angels are giving Ohtani the power to determine when he’s available to DH and work it around his pitching schedule.
The Angels managed to avoid any major injuries to any of their regulars this camp, but reliever Felix Peña suffered a right hamstring strain that is expected to keep him off the Opening Day roster. Fellow reliever Aaron Slegers has been plagued by back spasms this spring and isn’t expected to be ready for the regular season, either.
Player who opened eyes
Rojas is a great story, as he’s an Anaheim native who was drafted in the 36th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He has hit at every level and could finally reach the Majors as a 28-year-old rookie. Rojas has a .292/.350/.502 slash line in 411 Minor League games and has had an incredible spring offensively.
His lack of a true position has held him back, but he could make the club as a backup infielder. He can play second base, third base and first base. He can’t play shortstop, but second baseman David Fletcher could shift over there when José Iglesias is out of the lineup. Rojas is not on the 40-man roster, which could keep him off the Opening Day roster in favor of Rengifo, but it’s clear he’s close to making his long-awaited Major League debut.
Ohtani was incredible pulling double duty against the Padres on Sunday. He struck out five over four strong innings and hit as high as 101.9 mph on the radar gun. He also went 2-for-2 with a walk at the plate while serving as leadoff hitter, including going 1-for-1 with a walk against left-hander Blake Snell. Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, called him a “freak” after the game.
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Despite being a three-time AL MVP and an eight-time All-Star, Trout has made the postseason only once in his 10-year career. He is looking to change that narrative this season.