Battle brewing for final spot in Angels' rotation

Tropeano, Ramirez, Bridwell in mix for potential role as 6th starter

February 13th, 2018

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels are already planning on overseeing one fascinating experiment this spring by allowing Shohei Ohtani to pursue his goal of becoming a two-way player in the Major Leagues. The club's desire to ease Ohtani's jump from Japan to the Majors could ultimately lead them to adopt another.

Since landing Ohtani in December, general manager Billy Eppler and his staff have been weighing the possibility of using a six-man rotation this season, viewing it as a potential way to keep many of their oft-injured pitchers healthier by extending their rest in between starts. That Ohtani typically pitched once a week in Japan only buttressed the idea's appeal for the Angels.

Angels Spring Training Information

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The Angels will likely continue to mull rotation configurations during Spring Training, which officially began today when pitchers and catchers reported to Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Injuries and other unpredictable developments could derail any projections, but as it stands, , , , and Ohtani are expected to form the bulk of the rotation, with , JC Ramirez and Nick Tropeano in the mix for the possible sixth opening.

The battle for the final rotation spot could shape up to be one of the most interesting storylines to follow at Angels camp this year. Here's a look at where each candidate stands heading into Spring Training.

Tropeano: The 27-year-old right-hander missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2016, but he completed a throwing program in Arizona last fall and is expected to enter camp healthy. Tropeano showed promise for the Angels before the elbow injury, going 3-2 with a 3.56 ERA in 13 starts in 2016. He'll have to prove that he's capable of replicating that effectiveness to make a push for a rotation spot this spring.

Ramirez: He spent his first three seasons in the Majors as a reliever before the Angels decided to give the right-hander a shot in the rotation last season after Richards went down with a biceps injury in April. Ramirez, 29, made the most of his opportunity, going 11-10 with a 4.15 ERA in 27 appearances (24 starts), logging a career-high 147 1/3 innings in 2017.

Still, Ramirez missed the final six weeks of last season with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and received a stem-cell injection to promote healing in August. Ramirez has been cleared to throw off the mound, but he won't be out of the woods until he begins facing hitters this spring.

Because he's out of options, Ramirez is likely to be on the Angels' Opening Day roster in some capacity, whether it be as a starter or as a multi-innings reliever.

Bridwell: Acquired from the Orioles for cash last April, Bridwell emerged as one of the biggest surprises of the Angels' season after going 10-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 21 appearances (20 starts) in 2017. The 26-year-old right-hander impressed the club with his efficiency and ability to pitch to contact and put together an impressive run despite averaging only 5.43 strikeouts per nine innings, the sixth-lowest rate among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings in the Majors last season.

Can he sustain that level of success without compelling swing-and-miss stuff? That's the question Bridwell will be charged with answering this spring.