By Stu Matthews, Angels Nation managing editor
The door to the major leagues with the Angels may have opened a bit more for a pair of fan favorites — second baseman Jose Rojas and pitcher Chris Rodriguez.
After the Angels beat the Kansas City Royals 4-2 on Wednesday, the club cleared house in advance of the final Opening Day cuts with multiple roster moves, including some surprising ones.
Middle infielder Luis Rengifo, who has appeared in 150 major-league games at second base and shortstop for the Angels, was optioned in the biggest surprise cut.
The Rengifo move quite possibly opens the door for Anaheim native Rojas, a favorite of manager Joe Maddon, to crack the 26-man Opening Day roster as we alluded to earlier today.
After fellow infielder Franklin Barreto went on the injured list earlier this week, Rengifo was the main obstacle to the 28-year-old Rojas realizing his dream of playing for his hometown Angels.
Rojas, a left-handed hitter and former 36th round pick, has proven himself to Maddon and the Angels coaching staff with his attitude as well as his .321 spring average and crisp left-handed bat.
“(Rojas) is a guy who has had to prove himself to the new group and the front office, but as coaches, we’ve been on this for a bit,” Maddon said. “We’ve kind of been in his fan club, and right now other people are recognizing it.”
Rodriguez, a hard-throwing right-hander who is viewed by some around the organization as a possible future ace starter, may also have seen his path cleared to the Opening Day squad.
Nine pitchers were reassigned Wednesday evening, and Rodriguez didn’t see his name on the cut list.
In a slightly surprising move, right-hander Jake Faria was reassigned. Faria, who has 49 games of MLB experience, was battling for a spot at the back of the bullpen.
Faria showed composure but had trouble sorting out control problems — six walks and only eight strikeouts in 9.1 innings hurt Faria’s cause.
So, Rodriguez has less competition for a slot in the bullpen if Maddon and the brass decide to go for pure, high-octane velocity out of the pen, and see where it leads.
“If you look at (Rodriguez) right now, he looks like a relief pitcher to me,” Maddon said Sunday. “But that doesn’t mean he can’t start. Just looking at the way he comes after (hitters), the physical stuff, how intimidating he can be in the short term, it’s very interesting.”
The other high-profile name who was reassigned was left-handed pitcher Reid Detmers, but that was no surprise.
Detmers is the Angels’ No. 2 prospect (MLB Pipeline) and is considered a candidate for the starting rotation as early as 2022 — so better to get him starts in games at the alternate site or in the minor leagues as soon as possible.
The move of Rengifo casts more shade on the February 2020 trade that then-GM Billy Eppler had finalized with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a deal that would have sent Rengifo and a couple other prospects to the Dodgers for outfielders Joc Pederson and Andy Pages and pitcher Ross Stripling.
As negotiations dragged out as part of the Dodgers other deals with Boston and Minnesota for Mookie Betts and Brusdar Graterol, Angel owner Arte Moreno grew frustrated and nixed the deal.
Rengifo won’t be on the Opening Day roster on April 1, and the Angels got nothing for having him in the minor leagues.
The Angels might, however, have the benefit of having Jose Rojas in Anaheim on April 1.
These players were involved in Wednesday’s moves.
Anthony Bemboom, c
Jack Mayfield, inf
Luis Rengifo, inf
Reid Detmers, lhp
Jake Faria, rhp
Phil Gosselin, inf
Zac Kristofak, rhp
Anthony Mulrine, c
Packy Naughton, rhp
Thomas Pannone, lhp
Dillon Peters, lhp
Jake Reed, rhp
Ben Rowen, rhp
Austin Warren, rhp
Kean Wong, inf