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Angels not short on options for rotation

Richards, Weaver and Wilson are locks, leaving several pitchers to battle for two spots
Special to MLB.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If you can never have too much pitching, the Angels are in a good place: Eight starting pitchers came into Spring Training with the hope of breaking camp with the big league club.

"It's always a good problem to have, to have too many guys," pitching coach Charles Nagy said. "We have a lot of quality arms."

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If you can never have too much pitching, the Angels are in a good place: Eight starting pitchers came into Spring Training with the hope of breaking camp with the big league club.

"It's always a good problem to have, to have too many guys," pitching coach Charles Nagy said. "We have a lot of quality arms."

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Nagy enters his first season on manager Mike Scioscia's staff with experience in the same position from 2011-13 with the D-backs. Nagy said getting that camaraderie with the players is important, and he called back to his Arizona days when he worked with one of the pitchers battling for a spot on the Angels this year: left-hander Tyler Skaggs.

"That's what this is all about, building relationships," Nagy said. "I've been down here for the last couple of weeks, getting to know a lot of the guys, what they can and can't do."

Established pitchers like Garrett Richards, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson will be part of the rotation, so that leaves just two spots for righties Matt Shoemaker and Nick Tropeano and lefties Andrew Heaney, Skaggs and Hector Santiago.

Of the group, Heaney appears to be the favorite to nab one of the spots. Scioscia stopped short of naming Heaney to the rotation, but he said the expectations are high for the lefty, provided he continues the command of his secondary pitches and builds up the endurance needed to get through the 162-game season.

Heaney got a cup of coffee in the Majors in 2014 with the Marlins, then he was called up to the Angels last summer and posted a 3.49 ERA over 105 2/3 innings. This spring is his first chance to win an Opening Day roster spot in the Majors. For Heaney, the key is in the details.

"It's sort of owning my mechanics a little bit," he said. "Being able to self-teach myself and correct myself and be able to make adjustments on my own, things like that that I got away from last year."

If Heaney secures a place in the rotation, it leaves Nagy and Scioscia plenty of options for the final spot. Among the group of candidates is Santiago, an All-Star in 2015 who struggled with a 5.47 ERA after the break; Shoemaker, who stumbled last season after bursting onto the scene in '14; Skaggs, who missed '15 while recovering from Tommy John surgery; and Tropeano, who has thrown just 59 1/3 innings in the Majors.

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"It's all friendly," Tropeano said of the competition. "Obviously having eight or nine guys who are MLB-ready is not a bad thing to have. At some point, we're all going to contribute to this team in some way."

And as Tropeano said, it's likely most -- if not all -- of the pitchers will see time with the Angels this year. Rarely does a team use five pitchers in the rotation an entire season, and last year all of the rotation candidates (except Skaggs, who was hurt) made at least seven starts.

"Whether they break camp with us April 1, they're going to be up here at some point helping us win games," Nagy said. "Whether it's one of the guys that breaks camp, or one of the guys that at some point comes up in June, July, August, they might be a huge piece of the puzzle."

Justin Emerson is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Angels, Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson