Opening Day is nearly here for the Angels.The Angels will cap their exhibition schedule with two more Freeway Series games against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium before heading to Oakland for their regular-season opener against the A's at 1:05 p.m. PT on Thursday.Here's what you need to know about the
Opening Day is nearly here for the Angels.
The Angels will cap their exhibition schedule with two more Freeway Series games against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium before heading to Oakland for their regular-season opener against the A's at 1:05 p.m. PT on Thursday.
Here's what you need to know about the Angels before they officially kick off their 2018 campaign.
Projected Opening Day lineup
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Michael Trout, CF
Justin Upton, LF
Jose Pujols, 1B
Kole Calhoun, RF
Zack Cozart, 3B
Andrelton Simmons, SS
Shohei Ohtani, DH
Martin Maldonado, C
Garrett Richards, RHP
• Kinsler is expected to be the Angels' primary leadoff man and serve as the spark plug for the club's revamped lineup. The veteran second baseman will add some pop to the top of the order and also possesses the ability to draw walks, deliver a strong contact rate and steal bases. That skill set has allowed Kinsler to be productive in the leadoff spot for much of his career, yielding a .271 batting average with an .800 OPS over 1,056 games.
• The Angels are unlikely to name a designated closer at the outset of the season, though Richard Parker, Cam Bedrosian and Jim Johnson all have varying levels of experience pitching the ninth inning. The Angels are more likely to keep their bullpen roles fluid and deploy their relievers based on matchups and leverage.
• Luis Valbuena and Pujols are projected to split time at first base, with Pujols playing the field a few times a week to free up at-bats for Ohtani at the designated hitter spot. The Angels tended to sit the left-handed-hitting Valbuena against lefties last season, so Pujols or Jefry Marte could get the majority of starts at first against left-handed starters.
• Andrew Heaney (left elbow inflammation) is expected to open the season on the disabled list, though the Angels are not overly concerned about the setback. Heaney, who underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2016, has been cleared to resume throwing, but he will still need to return to the mound and rebuild his stamina before he'll be ready to pitch for the Angels.
Though the club still plans to use a six-man rotation in 2018, it will open the season with five starters, as it can use an early off-day to delay using a sixth starter until April 12. If Heaney isn't ready by then, the Angels could call up Parker Bridwell or Nick Tropeano from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.