Shohei Ohtani, Angels Preparing for 60-Game Season

Major League Baseball released the schedule for the upcoming abbreviated 60-game regular season on Monday evening.

Joe Maddon’s first full season as the Los Angeles Angels’ skipper will be a dash rather than the originally expected marathon. However, the shortened season could see some additional benefits the Angels would not have had if the 2020 season began as originally scheduled back in March. 

First and foremost, Shohei Ohtani is returning to the mound after spending the past one-and-a-half seasons relegated exclusively to designated hitter role for the club. Ohtani performed like an ace on the mound before an elbow injury forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery and suspend his pitching career until this summer. 

Ohtani would have missed the first two to three months of the Angels’ original 162-game schedule but now the Angels should have Ohtani on the mound every week—likely on Sundays—for the entire 60-game schedule.  

This new schedule that should provide Ohtani with 10 Sunday starts and keep his inning total for the regular season around 60, which could benefit the Angels further if they earn a playoff berth. 

Joe Maddon plans to still get Ohtani in the lineup for an additional four or five games as the team’s primary designated hitter. Featuring the 26-year-old right-hander as the starting pitcher on Sundays provides him with three built-in Monday off-days for rest the day following his starts on the mound.

Another young starting pitcher that was suffering a setback in March but is now feeling better on the mound is Griffin Canning. Canning has top-of-the-rotation promise and his health coupled with that of Ohtani provides the Angels depth in the rotation as they are joined by projected Opening Day starter Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, Julio Teheran, and Patrick Sandoval as top candidates to round out six-man rotation. Matt Andriese, Felix Pena, Jose Suarez, and Jaime Barria will be additional candidates for starting roles or swingmen out of the Angels’ bullpen. 

Othani’s return to the mound will also provide a trickle-down effect on the Angels’ lineup as he will likely hit in games before and after his pitching starts. Albert Pujols is likely to see a fair number of games as the designated hitter on those days, thus providing opportunities for Tommy La Stella and Matt Thaiss to get some additional starts. Assuming Jo Adell earns a place on the roster, the depth of outfielders Mike Trout, Justin Upton, and Brian Goodwin could also earn rotation as the club’s designated hitter at times in 2020. 

The Angels will open the season with a four-game series in Oakland beginning Friday, July 24 before returning to Anaheim for their home opener and a three-game series against Seattle on Tuesday, July 28.

The Angels will play 10 straight games to open the season and see only two off-days in the first 37 days of the season. They will complete the home schedule with back-to-back three-game series hosting Arizona and Texas from Sept. 15 to 21 before finishing the regular season with five interleague games in San Diego and Los Angeles. 

The Angels are tied with the Miami Marlins for having the toughest strength of schedule based on 2019 records of their 2020 opponents. Still, the Angels should give the others on their schedule concern as the additions of Anthony Rendon and Jo Adell to a lineup already featuring MVP Mike Trout, David Fletcher, and a healthy Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons provide the Angels a lineup to fear.  

The Angels will hope the 60-game season can provide their rotation the break they have needed in recent years with the rash of injuries that have plagued their pitching staff.

Angels fans surely hope it’s enough to get the club back to the playoffs after missing the postseason the past five years. 

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