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ANAHEIM — Injuries have cratered the Angels’ rotation in each of the past two seasons, a major reason why the club is coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1992-93 (not counting the strike-shortened ’94 season).
But the outlook for 2018 looks brighter, as the Angels are expected to enter Spring Training with a healthier and deeper rotation that was bolstered this offseason with the signing of Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.
To help ease Ohtani’s transition to the Majors and give the rest of their pitching staff more rest between starts, the Angels are seriously considering moving to a six-man rotation. MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotations of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here’s how the Angels’ rotation may shake out:
ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
RHP Garrett Richards
RHP Shohei Ohtani
LHP Andrew Heaney
LHP Tyler Skaggs
RHP Matt Shoemaker
RHP Nick Tropeano/RHP JC Ramirez/RHP Parker Bridwell
If healthy, Richards and Ohtani have the potential to be a standout duo at the top of the Angels’ rotation. While arm injuries have limited him to just 12 starts between 2016-17, Richards logged a 2.31 ERA over that span, and he still has elite velocity, as his 95.7 mph fastball was tied with Stephen Strasburg for eighth-best among Major League starters last season. Ohtani, meanwhile, recorded a 2.52 ERA in five seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball and he has reached 102 mph with his fastball. The Angels have another pair of talented arms in Heaney and Skaggs, but their development has been stalled by injuries.
Most of the Angels’ starters have troubling injury histories, with Richards, Heaney, Skaggs, Shoemaker, Tropeano and Ramirez all spending considerable time on the disabled list in 2017. Ohtani comes with his own health concerns, as the 23-year-old is coming off ankle surgery, and he also received a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat a Grade-1 sprain in his right ulnar collateral ligament in October. Richards and Shoemaker have some track record of success in the Majors, but the rest of the staff remains largely unproven.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
While the Angels seem to be heavily leaning toward using a six-man rotation in 2018, no official decision has been announced, so it’s unclear how many starters the club will carry on its Opening Day roster. A blend between a traditional five-man and a six-man rotation is also a possibility, with someone like Tropeano or Bridwell potentially shuttling between Triple-A Salt Lake and the Majors to fill in when necessary.
The Angels seem unlikely to make any other significant additions to their rotation this offseason, but they could still look to supplement their depth through Minor League free agency or other inexpensive avenues.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.