Angels general manager Perry Minasian met with the media last Saturday (April 16) in Texas to talk about some early season trends and his thoughts on how the club had been performing early the year.
I was curious what he thought about Shohei Ohtani's performnce on the mound to that point, as the righty was 0-2 with a 7.56 ERA through his first two starts. Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, had uncharacteristically struggled against the Rangers last Friday, allowing six runs over 3 2/3 innings and was hurt by a grand slam in the second from Texas catcher Jonah Heim.
But Minasian immediately disagreed with the assessment that Ohtani had been scuffling on the mound, pointing the fact the ace had struck out 14 in 8 1/3 innings over those first two starts, and his velocity indicated he was just fine physically. Minasian blamed it on one bad inning and said he wasn’t worried about Ohtani on the mound, not at all.
Minasian proved to be correct in that assertion, as Ohtani turned in one of the best outings of his career in Houston on Wednesday against the Astros. The two-way star flirted with a perfect game and ended up allowing one hit and one walk over six scoreless frames, tallying 12 strikeouts to get his first win of the year. He also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and a walk.
“He was at his best,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “I think he just had enough of Houston giving him a hard time, and he wanted to go out there and do something about it, both on the mound and at the plate.”
Maddon added on Friday that he would have left Ohtani in the game to try for a perfecto if he hadn’t allowed a one-out single to Jason Castro in the sixth. Ohtani threw 81 pitches but Maddon said he would have let Ohtani throw up to 125 pitches if he had a perfect game going.
The skipper also said he still hasn’t found a day off for Ohtani at the plate just yet, but he could get one during the Angels' current stretch of 20 straight games without a day off that began on Friday. Ohtani's next mound start is set to come on Wednesday against the Guardians at Angel Stadium.
“Whatever he needs, he’s going to get, but I haven’t spoken to him specifically yet about what day he wants off,” Maddon said. “It may be necessary in that stretch of 20 games. It’ll be a conversation.”
FLETCHER BEGINS REHAB ASSIGNMENT
Infielder David Fletcher started a rehab assignment at Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday after being placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hip strain on April 12. The Angels don’t have a timetable for his return just yet, but he’s expected to play this weekend with Salt Lake before being reevaluated.
It’ll be interesting what the Angels decide to do once Fletcher is ready to come back, as Maddon has been impressed by Andrew Velazquez’s defense at shortstop in Fletcher’s absence, and he said he sees Fletcher playing more second base than shortstop going forward. The Angels still have fellow middle infielders Jack Mayfield, Matt Duffy and Tyler Wade on their roster, which means the Angels will have to option one to make room for Fletcher. Mayfield is the most likely to be optioned, but he’s off to a strong start offensively.
It appears that Fletcher will have to earn his playing time after struggling offensively last year and starting this season by going 1-for-13 at the plate. Maddon still loves him defensively, but he now has something to prove after his breakout seasons in 2019 and ’20.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Not only did Ohtani flirt with a perfect game on Wednesday, he also made even more history, becoming the first pitcher to ever bat twice in the first inning before taking the mound.
• As previously mentioned, Mayfield is off to a hot start and MLB.com's Alyson Footer has the story from Tuesday, when he went 2-for-4 to extend his hit streak to 13 games going back to last year.
• MLB.com has started hitter power rankings for 2022, and while there were no Angels on the initial list released Thursday, superstars Mike Trout and Ohtani should be on there as the season goes along and a few early hot streaks start to fizzle out.
Which team did the Angels defeat in the 2002 ALCS to capture their only pennant to date?
C. Red Sox
THIS WEEK IN ANGELS HISTORY
Right-hander Jaime Barría was a part of Major League history when he faced Giants first baseman Brandon Belt and Belt responded with a 21-pitch at-bat on April 22, 2018. It broke the record for the most pitches in an at-bat in Major League history.
After fouling 16 pitches off, Belt finally flied out to right to end the at-bat after it lasted roughly 13 minutes. Barría lasted two-plus innings, allowing two runs on five hits, while throwing 77 pitches in a 4-2 loss at Angel Stadium.
A. Minnesota Twins
The Angels won the series over the Twins in five games with Adam Kennedy memorably winning ALCS MVP honors after his epic performance in Game 5 that saw hit him three homers in the series-clinching win at Angel Stadium. Kennedy homered off Joe Mays in the third and fifth innings before hitting his third shot off future lefty ace Johan Santana in the seventh. The Angels were trailing by two runs in the seventh before Kennedy's three-run blast put them up for good in the eventual 13-5 win. The Halos scored 10 runs in the seventh and Twins fans still haven’t forgiven Kennedy, who had homered just seven times in the regular season.
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