When the 2021 MLB season started, the Los Angeles Angels decided to go with an unorthodox six-man starting rotation. Beyond the benefits of keeping a player like Shohei Ohtani well-rested, they were hoping it would help to ease the strain of players going from a 60-game season to the full 162.
The Angels rotation featured Ohtani, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Alex Cobb, Jose Quintana, and Griffin Canning on Opening Day. Perhaps no group in the Major Leagues has undergone more non-injury related change than this starting rotation. Heaney was traded to the New York Yankees, Canning was optioned to Triple-A, and Bundy and Quintana were sent to the bullpen.
Then, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Reid Detmers, and Chris Rodriguez all made the move to the starting rotation, signaling a new era of young Angels pitchers. An injury to Cobb allowed Bundy to get back into the rotation, but now the Angels have no plans to send him back to the bullpen when Cobb gets healthy.
This means it will be a seven-man rotation when Cobb is eventually activated, a plan that Joe Maddon is hoping will pay off next season when everyone is fully adjusted back to 162 games, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“In this year, and we talked about this from the beginning, to make sure we had enough starters to get through the year comfortably,” Maddon said. “Hopefully, we’re going to realize the benefits next year of what we’re doing this year. I don’t know that. But that was part of the original philosophy too.”
Ohtani, Sandoval, Suarez, Detmers, Rodriguez, Cobb, and Bundy should be more than enough to get the Angels through their final 55 games. If anything changes, it would likely be Bundy going back to the bullpen. However, he fared relatively well in his most recent start.
This is undoubtedly a move that most MLB teams would not even attempt. However, the youth of the Angels pitchers — four of the seven being under 25 — makes it something worth attempting as they try to get through the rest of this season.
This is certainly something to monitor, especially as offensive players like Jared Walsh, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon ultimately get healthy and placed back on the active roster.
Trout not being shut down for season
Given the uncertainty surrounding Trout’s ongoing calf injury, there has been increased discussion about the benefits of shutting him down for the remainder of the season. Within the Angels organization, however, that thought is not even being entertained.
Maddon spoke about this, saying that the team believes Trout will be back this season and that shutting him down is not something they plan on doing.