The Angels' Opening Day bullpen is starting to round into form after the organization made a number of roster moves ahead of Sunday night's 6-5 win over the Dodgers to open the Freeway Series.
Ty Buttrey, expected to be a key player in the bullpen picture to start the season, was optioned to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. The right-hander had a 3.86 ERA in seven innings of work this spring.
Manager Joe Maddon explained that a lack of consistency from Buttrey played a factor in the club’s decision to option him.
“We love [Buttrey] and we think it’s all going to be there,” Maddon said. “We’re just working through some things [with him]. We just felt it was better to leave him back and give him direction and to work on some things.”
Buttrey debuted with the Angels in 2018, posting a 4.30 career ERA in 150 appearances since his arrival. The reliever threw 26 1/3 innings and held a 5.81 ERA in the Angels' shortened 2020 season.
Maddon said that despite this latest move, the team still expects Buttrey to be a factor in the bullpen later this season.
“He’s going to be a big part of how we conclude this year."
Reunion with Ramirez?
The Angels have been in talks with free-agent reliever Noé Ramirez, who was released by the Cincinnati Reds.
Ramirez, who featured in the Angels' bullpen from 2017-20, was traded to the Reds this past offseason in the deal that brought Raisel Iglesias to Anaheim.
Maddon said that he and general manager Perry Minasian have discussed bringing back Ramirez, but noted that to his knowledge, no deal had been made official yet.
“[Minasian] brought his name up to me, so I don’t know if anything has been finalized yet, but we have been talking to [Ramirez],” Maddon said.
Ramirez had a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings of work a season ago.
With the scope of the bullpen picture coming into view, Maddon said the club hasn’t ruled out adding extra arms to its staff.
“Anything is possible,” Maddon said. “Still, there’s the ability to pick up pitchers. I can’t tell you for sure that anything else might not happen.”
Opening series rotation set
The starting rotation for the Angels' season-opening series against the Chicago White Sox has been announced.
With Dylan Bundy getting the Opening Day nod, he will be followed by lefty Andrew Heaney on Friday and right-hander Alex Cobb on Saturday.
Two-way star Shohei Ohtani is expected to get the start on Sunday.
The Angels will use a six-man rotation this season. Maddon added that lefty José Quintana and righty Griffin Canning will follow Ohtani’s start.
Maddon on promising pitching prospect
Chris Rodriguez, the Angels' No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has earned some praise from his organization’s big league club.
Despite not yet pitching above the Class A Advanced Inland Empire 66ers, the 22-year-old Rodriguez is in the mix to be a part of the Major League Opening Day bullpen picture.
“[Rodriguez’s] stuff is that good. We think he can be a difference maker,” said Maddon, who added that the right-hander has the potential to make an impact this season.
Maddon said the club will be cautious about Rodriguez’s use once he makes the Majors.
“I can’t tell how exactly it’s going to work yet, except there’s going to be some caution involved and if he can just go out there and rip it like he has, he can be a big difference maker for us,” Maddon said.
Bundy locked in
Opening Day is just days away and Bundy has been locked in on his season-opening start.
The right-hander enjoyed a sharp spring. He threw 17 1/3 innings, struck out 16 and finished the Cactus League portion of play with a 3.12 ERA.
In 2020, Bundy went 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts for the Halos.
Given his success last season, Bundy says he's looking to be as reliable as he can be for the Angels in 2021.
“I try to go out there and be the guy that they can count on to ... take the ball every five or six days as a starting pitcher. That’s all you can really do,” he said.
Bundy said the impending return of fans to the Big A has added some excitement to the start of the season.
“I think all the players in the league are excited to just have fans in the stands,” Bundy said. “Doesn’t matter how many fans in the stands, at least it’s a few.”