ANAHEIM -- After holding the White Sox to two runs over a career-high six innings on Tuesday, Felix Pena was asked if he had finally begun to identify as a starting pitcher after making the transition from relieving."Right now, I feel like a starter," Pena said in Spanish. "I feel
ANAHEIM -- After holding the White Sox to two runs over a career-high six innings on Tuesday, Felix Pena was asked if he had finally begun to identify as a starting pitcher after making the transition from relieving.
"Right now, I feel like a starter," Pena said in Spanish. "I feel like I'm doing a good job."
When the Angels acquired Pena from the Cubs in exchange for cash considerations last October, they primarily viewed him as a potential multi-inning reliever who could help fill the void in their bullpen left by the departure of Yusmeiro Petit. But after a series of injuries cratered the club's pitching depth, Pena found himself pressed into the rotation for the first time since 2015, when he made 23 starts for the Cubs' Double-A affiliate.
Despite his lack of starting experience in the Majors, Pena has proved to be a viable rotation option for the Angels this season, logging a 2.73 ERA with 32 strikeouts over 29 2/3 innings over six starts. While he has continued to succeed in his new role, the Angels are keeping a close eye on Pena's workload.
Pena has not thrown more than 84 pitches in a single start this year, and manager Mike Scioscia said the Angels aren't in a rush to stretch him out to the 100-pitch mark.
"If that happens, great," Scioscia said Wednesday. "I know he got to a part of the game yesterday, and he worked hard to get there. But he got us through six innings, which is huge. There's a lot on his plate, and to take a guy that has never started before and try to get him to 100-110 pitches is a tall order. We're not going to force it."
The Angels' handling of Pena is likely informed by their experience with JC Ramirez, another converted reliever who moved into the rotation last season following a similar wave of injuries to the club's starters. Ramirez emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises of the year, posting a 4.15 ERA over a career-high 147 1/3 innings -- nearly double his workload from the previous year -- but his season was cut short in August due to a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Ramirez treated the injury with a stem-cell injection and opened the 2018 season in the Angels' rotation, but he made only two starts before re-tearing his elbow ligament. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in April.
"He had a really good year for us last year, pitched a lot and unfortunately, the elbow didn't hold up," Scioscia said of Ramirez. "But I think we certainly monitor these guys. First and foremost is their health. Not only in between starts is he assessed, but throughout the game. I think Felix will move at his own pace. We'll continue to monitor it."
Seeking to jolt the Angels' slumping offense, Scioscia moved Shohei Ohtani to the No. 2 spot in the lineup for Wednesday's game against the White Sox. The Angels had batted Andrelton Simmons second over their previous 16 games, but he has hit .227 with a .582 OPS at the top of the order, prompting Scioscia to slide him back to the No. 6 spot, where he's batted .346 with an .823 OPS this season.
"Offensively, we've tried to re-work some things during the season," Scioscia said. "We feel that Simba is more comfortable just being able to slash in any position with some guys on base. Hopefully, Shohei in the second hole will create offense for the middle of our lineup. That's what we're looking for."
The Angels entered Wednesday having lost five of their last six games, primarily because they've been struggling to score runs. Fourteen of their their 23 runs scored over that skid came in Sunday's 14-5 victory over the Astros.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.