Angels may use Ohtani in 6-man rotation
Club ponders options to maximize two-way star's impact
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With Shohei Ohtani in tow, one of the questions the Angels are now weighing this offseason is whether a six-man rotation would be the best way to fold the Japanese two-way star into the Majors next year.
General manager Billy Eppler is open to the possibility, though he has not yet broached the idea of an expanded rotation to the rest of his starters. Eppler said he expects a decision to be made before pitchers and catchers report to Tempe, Ariz., on Feb. 13 for the start of Spring Training.
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"If we, in fact, go that route, I will have conversations with them," Eppler said Monday during Day 1 of MLB's Winter Meetings.
A six-man rotation would be an attractive option for the Angels for a few reasons. First, the configuration would be more similar the one Ohtani experienced with the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan, where pitchers take the mound every seven days instead of the traditional five-day cycle in the Majors.
Injuries have ravaged the Angels' rotation the last two seasons, so an extra day of rest could also help keep the rest of the club's starters healthy, including Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Matthew Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez.
Ohtani missed most of this past season with a right ankle injury, and the 23-year-old has never pitched more than 160 2/3 innings over a single season in Nippon Professional Baseball, which has a 146-game schedule. Ohtani underwent surgery on his ankle in October, but Eppler said the 23-year-old is not expected to face any restrictions come Spring Training.
One challenge of moving to a six-man rotation would be that the Angels would have room for one less position player on their bench, as Eppler said he would like to maintain a seven-man bullpen. Such a scenario could prompt the Angels to prioritize players with more positional flexibility this offseason.
"I always put a premium on flexibility, but the utility of that is a little bit more evident right now," Eppler said.
One potential free-agent target for the Angels could be infielder Eduardo Nunez, a right-handed hitter who could platoon with Luis Valbuena at third base as well as play second and shortstop. Nunez, 30, batted .313 with an .801 OPS and 12 home runs over 114 games with the Giants and the Red Sox last season, though he missed time with a hamstring injury.