The Los Angeles Angels are in a bit of a bind with their outfield depth as Mike Trout begins his recovery from a Grade 2 calf strain. They have Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares, Justin Upton, and Taylor Ward as their go-to’s. However, they’ve had to turn to Jose Rojas as Joe Maddon’s fourth option when one of those three is out of the game.
Rojas is a career infielder who — coming into Friday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics — had played just seven total games in the outfield in his entire professional baseball career. However, Rojas ensured on Friday that people wouldn’t be able to tell, as he recorded two outfield assists in the 8-4 loss.
Maddon explained the decision to play Rojas in right field, and gave his reactions to what was an impressive overall performance, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“How about it?” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I put him in right because it’s smaller than left field and [Taylor] Ward is a bit faster. So I put him on the other side and he gets all the action and really rises to the occasion. Great performance on his part. He keeps growing as a Major League player. The fact he’s become able at a variety of positions makes him even more interesting to me.”
Jose Quintana was amazed by Rojas’ first outfield assist, which saved a run from scoring in a perfect rally from him to David Fletcher.
x”Amazing,” said Quintana, who gave up three runs over 5 1/3 innings. “That was a really good play. And as a pitcher, it can help you get more conviction and keep it going because the guys are out there for you and you want to keep competing for them.”
Unfortunately, the effort did not come in a win. However, it does give Maddon some confidence in his outfield while Trout is out. It also increases Rojas’ playing time, as he has proven he can play virtually any position, a massive plus for a team that has struggled defensively.
The Angels need to turn some of these great individual performances into wins, and they need to do it quickly. As it stands, they are falling behind in the American League West standings, sitting 7.5 games behind the first-place Athletics.
Chris Rodriguez nearing return
One thing that might help the Angels is the return of one of their strongest bullpen arms in Chris Rodriguez. He has been out almost three weeks with shoulder inflammation, but it was revealed that he could be activated any day now. The Angels bullpen currently has the worst ERA in baseball.