Inbox: Should Angels fans remain calm?

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers questions from fans

April 3rd, 2019

ANAHEIM -- It’s been a rough start to the season for the Angels, who are off to a 1-5 start after losing three of four in Oakland and two games in Seattle.

They’ve also had to weather bad news on , who is out two to three months with left turf toe, while is likely out another month with his elbow injury. But only 3.7 percent of the season is complete, so it’s still incredibly early.

With that in mind, here’s the first Angels Inbox of the 2019 regular season:

Should we start panicking over the slow start?
-- @SeanVosq

It’s way too early to panic, and it’s not like the Angels are the only team expected to contend off to a slow start. The Red Sox also opened their year by losing five of six, while the Astros have lost four of six and the Yankees lost their opening series to the Orioles.

One of the positives is the Angels are pitching well, as the club has a 3.67 ERA -- including a 1.47 ERA from the bullpen, which has ranked as the second-best mark in the Major so far. Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey and Tyler Skaggs have all looked solid, but they're going to need more from the back end of the rotation. The Angels do have starting pitching depth at Triple-A, and Jaime Barria could be up this month if Felix Pena or Chris Stratton struggle.

The biggest issue has been the offense, which didn’t figure to be an issue with this club. They do miss Upton’s presence in the lineup, and adding as a designated hitter in May should go a long way. There’s so much baseball left. It’s hard to glean too much from a sample size of six games.

Ohtani has been rehabbing at Angel Stadium without any issues and remains on track to return in May as a DH after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1. When Ohtani returns, Albert Pujols will split time at first base with Justin Bour based on matchups and overall production.

The Angels had Pujols play a lot of first base in Spring Training to prepare him once Ohtani comes back. Ohtani will be the regular DH, but he will still have days off here and there because he'll also be ramping up his throwing program to get ready to return as a pitcher in 2020. The Angels will be cautious with Ohtani, as they don't want him to experience any setbacks that could hurt him long-term.

Andrelton Simmons did see his offensive production drop off last year, as he hit .313/.371/.443 before the All-Star break but .264/.288/.381 after it. And he did struggle in Spring Training and early this season, but he's been adamant that he's fine physically. He’s been working hard with hitting coaches Jeremy Reed and Shawn Wooten on his swing, and he isn’t worried about his lack of production so far.

It's way too early for that, as Bour has a solid track record but is generally a slow starter. He has a career .744 OPS in March/April, which ranks as his worst month historically, and he heats up in May with a career .964 OPS that month. So he'll be given plenty of time to get things going. Matt Thaiss, meanwhile, had a nice spring but still has plenty to prove at Triple-A Salt Lake, including that he has enough home run power to be a Major League first baseman.

Barria and top pitching prospect Griffin Canning give the Angels starting pitching depth at Triple-A, along with lefties Jose Suarez and Dillon Peters. Stratton had the roughest outing of the club's five starters and has the most to prove but it's also way too early to make any sweeping changes to the rotation.

I don't see the Angels moving Mike Trout in the order, as manager Brad Ausmus has said he likes Trout in that spot because it gives him more at-bats than hitting third but more RBI opportunities than hitting first. I don't think the batting order has been the issue so far, but if Ausmus does mix it up, I don't see Trout moving from hitting second.

Being new on the beat, I'm still trying to get a feel for clubhouse dynamics. But Kole Calhoun appears to be that kind of player, as he plays with intensity and is a vocal figure in the clubhouse. Trout and Pujols are also veterans who keep their teammates accountable, so it doesn't seem to be the issue. The bats just need to wake up and maybe heading home will help that.