“Angels-Pitching Staff-Help Wanted”
Baseball’s attention this weekend will likely be focused on Diablo Stadium in Tempe, where the Angels face Milwaukee on a Cactus League exhibition game.
Why? The debut of Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, painted in some corners, as the next Babe Ruth.
That’s an awful lot to say considering he has never thrown an inning on a mound in the US, has never taken a pitch as a DH.
Ohtani, the 100-mile an hour fastball pitcher, and the legendary (.330) hitter with home run power, will begin his trek in Halo Red as a 2-position player. With him, in addition to his credentials, comes enormous expectation that this 6’4 phenom will be something special here, just like he was with the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Might he be the best of the best Japan has ever sent us?
In recent years, Japan has delivered us a likely Hall of Famer in Ichuro Suzuki, who debuted and starred for so long with the Mariners. Pitcher Yu Darvish came here to Texas, and just signed a big money deal with the Cubs. We remember Dice Matuzaka, Hidecki Matsui, and long ago the likes of Hideo Nomo and more.
But Ohtani is so diverse, so dynamic, so talented, and he has yet to play in a game.
The Angels have openly said they have configured a formula as to how to use Ohtani, as part of a 6-man pitching rotation., and then let him DH on some of the off-days he is not pitching. That means aging and ailing Albert Pujols will have to play more first base than he has in recent years.
The other stress point will be the rest of the rotation, all talented, and virtually all who have had major health problems.
On paper, Garrett Richards has all the makings of an ace, and a big front of the rotation guy.
Matt Shoemaker has shown flashes of spectacular stuff. Andrew Heaney was so highly rated as a prospect. Tyler Skaggs has been penciled in for a couple of years as a rotation guiy. Parker Bridwell pitched well last year when needed to much. Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez have had opportunities in the past.
You may say strength in numbers, 7-established major league starters, to front and back and put aroud Ohtani.
Sounds good except for one thing. 6-of-those 7 have had major arm issues, with only Bridwell the only one not to spend time on a disabled list, or on an operating table.
Shoulders, rotator cuffs, capsules, elbow ligaments, forearms, flexor tendons. Those are the words linked to Richards, thru Shoemaker, all the way to Ramirez.
A 6-man rotation sounds sexy as a way to protect the huge investment in Ohtani, but if you go with six, that means they have to be productive and go deeper into games, because it probably means you may have fewer people in the bullpen.
And the Angels bullpen has been a triage unit too, with the end of the run to closer Huston Street, the injuries to Cam Bedrosian, and a whole sort of other physical ills, to the rest of the bullpen brigade.
What a 5-weeks the Halos have in front of them, to sort out this pitching, to chart the health of the once ailing arms, and come up with the right formula work-schedule for their next designated superstar, where many hope Ohtani becomes the equivalent of Mike Trout.
Manager Mike Scoscia is starting his 19th year in that Halos dugout. He’s probably seen everything there is to be seen in baseball, as a catcher, now as a bench boss.
Bet he’s never seen this challenge…7-pitchers, 1-raw rookie star, 6-who need special handling.
Scoscia may be old school, but he may need new breed calculus to figure out who goes where, and how healthy can they stay as we go towards Angels opening day.
They could be great, but they could also all get hurt again, thus the ‘Help Wanted’ sign hanging next to ‘Game Today’ sign hanging outside Diablo Stadium in Tempe.