Halos plan to play matchup game with bullpen

Lamb presents unique footwear to clubhouse; Ohtani's swing impresses Pujols

February 16th, 2018

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels refrained from naming an official closer in 2017, preferring to keep bullpen roles fluid and deploy their most effective relievers in high-leverage situations, regardless of the inning. The arrangement became a strength for the club last season, as its bullpen finished the season with a 3.92 ERA, the fifth lowest in the American League.

The Angels' relief corps will look a bit different this season after losing valuable arms like , and , but the group's flexibility could remain intact.

"I think we've got a group of guys we know can pitch in high-leverage situations," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "How that folds out, it folds out. But last year, our bullpen did a great job without a guy that closed from the first game to the end of the season. I think the important thing is not so much you have one guy who is the closer, because it can work other ways, but to have the depth of guys who will give you every night the arms you need to close games out."

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, Jim Johnson, and are among the relievers who the Angels could turn to in save situations this season.

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Walk this way

It's not easy to walk in left-hander 's shoes -- literally.

Lamb, who is back in Angels camp as a non-roster invitee this spring, was spotted shuffling around the clubhouse wearing a pair of Birkenstock sandals with half a lacrosse ball attached to the bottom of the shoes. Lamb said he was introduced to the unconventional footwear by Dr. Mark Kozuki, a physical therapist who helped him rehab his surgically-repaired back last year in Costa Mesa, Calif.

"Supposedly, there are case studies that prove that it just helps activate your glutes, and with my back issues, it was something that I thought was worth trying," Lamb said. "He had them at his little facility and recommended I walk on them every morning I got there to kind of help warm myself up. I bought in. I noticed how hard it was at first, and then it got easier, and like anything you do, it takes a little while to get accustomed to something new, but once you do, you just preach the benefits."

Lamb said he puts on the sandals and tries to balance three times a day for up to five minutes. He has become an advocate for the routine, even presenting his shoes to his teammates during a meeting on Wednesday.

"I was kind of called out on these and made to do a little presentation," Lamb said. "That was fun. I'm not the best presenter, but I feel like I did my job in trying to sell them to who was listening."

Lamb, 27, has not pitched in the Majors since 2016 and missed the first half of last season while recovering from back surgery. He returned to action with Triple-A Salt Lake in June, logging a 5.37 ERA over 13 starts. Lamb is free of restrictions this spring and said his body finally feels healthy and free of the injuries that have stalled his career over the past couple years.

"It's been a little rollercoaster ride so to speak, but I've felt healthier than I've ever felt," Lamb said. "There's nothing that's holding me back right now."

Ohtani update

, who will likely face hitters in live batting practice on Saturday, continues to impress the Angels with his two-way talents. First baseman , who hit with Ohtani in Orange County over the offseason, said he was impressed with the 23-year-old's left-handed swing.

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"It's strong, man," Pujols said. "He's really strong. For his age, he has a lot of knowledge of what he wants to do at the plate. … He's a really humble guy, awesome guy, I'm happy to get to know him."