By Chad Stewart
On Sunday, I wrote about how well the starters are playing in Spring Training, but what about everybody else?
Of the players fighting for a spot on the bench, Rafael Ortega has performed the best on both offense and defense. And he has “impressed” Mike Sciosscia —called it. Anyway, Ortega is 4-for-14 (.286) with two doubles and 3 runs scored. As for defense, he has showcased his strong throwing arm by racking up two outfield assists. The biggest competition Ortega faces is Rule-5 pick Ji-Man Choi. Choi is currently 4-for-17 (.236) with three singles, a home run, and three RBI; he has spent his time in the field at first base. Choi probably has the upper hand in the fight for the final bench spot simply because he is a Rule-5 pick, which means the Angels would have to offer him back to the Baltimore Orioles if he is taken off the 25-man roster at any point during the season.
Utility-man Cliff Pennington is one of the only position players off to a poor start, just 2-for-14.
After a 3-for-3 game Tuesday evening, Craig Gentry is now 6-for-13 (.462) with a double and a stolen base. If the first eight games of Spring Training are any indication (they probably aren’t), the likely platoon combo of Nava and Gentry is looking like it might not be so bad after all.
While most of the position players who will have an impact on the major league team are off to good offensive starts, the same cannot be said about a few relievers. Right-hander Cam Bedrosian has struggled the most, allowing a home run and four runs in three innings, striking out four and walking one. Bedrosian looked much better in Tuesday’s scoreless outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, in which he struck out the side, than in his previous two, however. Hard-throwing righty Al Alburquerque, lefty Jose Alvarez, and Rule-5 pick Deolis Guerra have each allowed two earned runs in their two innings of work.
The most impressive performance among relievers thus far has been that of Mike Morin. After an outstanding rookie campaign in 2014 (2.90 ERA in 59 IP), Morin struggled mightily in 2015, posting a 6.37 ERA in 35.1 innings. This Spring, he has looked more like 2014 Mike Morin, striking out a pair across three perfect innings. With the loss of Trevor Gott, Morin’s ability to seize the seventh inning role will be vital to the Halos.
Setup man Joe Smith has pitched one scoreless inning, and closer Huston Street has not yet appeared in a game.
Obviously two or three innings is almost nothing — and every pitcher goes through two-three inning stretches of great success and great failure — but these pitchers are fighting for a spot in a crowded bullpen, so every inning is important for them.