Angels News: Jose Soriano Likely To Return To Bullpen If Robert Stephenson Begins Season On Injured List
MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota Twins
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

One intriguing and unexpected storyline that has played a role for the Los Angeles Angels in Spring Training has been the decision to stretch Jose Soriano out as a starter after being one of the team’s more reliable bullpen figures in 2023. The Angels made several bullpen additions — most notably Robert Stephenson formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays — giving them the freedom to try bringing Soriano back to a starting role.

It was unclear if Soriano would be in the Opening Day rotation as the Angels already have five starters, or if he would be a long relief option or sixth starter. It seemed as though his role would be whatever was necessary for the success of the Angels. And with recent news about Stephenson, that may be returning to the bullpen entirely.

Stephenson has yet to pitch in Spring Training as he has been dealing with shoulder soreness. His plan, and the Angels’, was for him to be ready by Opening Day. But now, it appears as though he may be running out of time to make that happen, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:

“We’ve done all that stuff,” Washington said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting through the discomfort. He understands what the issue is. I think he’s got a better grasp of some stuff he’s just going to have to deal with. It will get better in the distance, but before that he was unsure.

“The kid was scared. He never had that kind of discomfort before, but it’s nothing major. Now he knows that and we’ll progress a little quicker, but I don’t know if it will be quick enough for him to open the season.”

If Stephenson ultimately has to start the season on the Injured List, Soriano is a prime candidate to return to the bullpen to help shoulder some burden in his absence.

“First, you take care of need, and then you can start thinking long term,” Washington said. “We decided we wanted to try to see if Soriano can start, and so far he has proven to us that he possibly can. Now, Stephenson down that means we’ve got a void in the bullpen. Now we’re going to make a decision on our need right there. Long term would be Soriano being a starter. But if we can’t fill that void in the bullpen, Soriano has done it before. We’ve got an option.”

The Angels already have five starters in Tyler Anderson, Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval and Chase Silseth, meaning Soriano is more needed in the bullpen than the rotation. But ideally, Stephenson can return quickly so the Angels can use each player as they intended in their offseason planning.

Angels predicted to land Snell

Nearly all of the offseason’s major free agents have found homes, with the notable exception being Blake Snell. With the regular season beginning in less than three weeks, Snell — the reigning National League Cy Young winner — has yet to sign anywhere. This is because teams are wary of giving him a deal in excess of $200 million for a pitcher who rarely goes deep into games, especially in the postseason.

This may open the door for the Angels to come to an agreement with Snell on a short-term deal. At least, that’s what ESPN’s Buster Olney predicted on the Willard and Dibs podcast.

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