ANAHEIM, Calif.-A calf, a thigh and an elbow showed up at Angel Stadium on Thursday night, and it’s not a guy-goes-in-a-bar joke. However, with the rising sun in the west of a new era of baseball, three body parts have come together that, in one way or another, play an important role in the AL West race.
In fact, one of the beauties of a new season is that not only does it come full of optimism and the promise of the coming summer, but, for some players, it also includes muscles and joints that come back in one piece after being squeezed, pulled, torn. or damaged in the past year.
This is Mike Trout’s right -hander, well on his way for 2022 after he was limited to a rip -off in 36 games last year. His Los Angeles Angels teammate, third baseman Anthony Rendon, returned to the lineup after surgery in August to repair a right hip impingement that cut his time after 58 games.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Houston will put its one-time ace Justin Verlander in its rotation after Tommy John’s surgery two Sept. in an appearance since 2019.
The three players combined for four Most Valuable Player Awards (Trout 3, Verlander 1), two Cy Young Awards (Verlander), 18 All-Star Game appearances (Trout 9, Verlander 8, Rendon 1) and two World Series title (Verlander with 2017 Astros; Rendon with 2019 Nationals).
In total, they are on contracts worth $ 696.5 million (Trout $ 426.5 million in 12 years, Rendon $ 245 million in seven and Verlander $ 25 million for 2022).
Individually, each is an important pillar as the Astros are aiming for their fifth division title in the past six seasons and the Angels are looking to enter the postseason for the first time since 2014.
“There’s a lot of exciting stuff ahead,” Trout said, and if that’s not the opening day credo of all 30 clubhouses in the major leagues, it’s sure to fit in two dugouts here.
Trout, Rendon and Shohei Ohtani, the AL’s MVP of 2021, appeared simultaneously in the Angel lineup just 17 times last season. If that happened again, the Angels would drown.
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While Trout and Ohtani are megastars, Rendon’s ongoing health issues have forgotten some of the impact he can have on the farm.
“He’s one of those guys that can be radarized at some point, especially the high-profile guys we have, but he has the same impact as any of them,” Angels General Manager Perry Minasian said today. spring in Rendon. “He’s one of the best hitters in the game, one of the best players in the game. He has incredible skill, he’s a winner in a lot of postseasons.
In Washington’s run to a World Series title in 2019, Rendon knocked out a major league -leading 126 runs and also led the NL with 44 doubles. He hit .319 with a .412 on-base percentage and ruined 34 home runs.
Playing with Ohtani, though, is easy for Rendon – or anyone else, along with Trout – to slide under the radar.
Ohtani’s appeal was seen in the sales crowd of 44,723 on Thursday night. This was evident in the noticeable loud pregame ovation for his translator, Ippei Mizuhara, and the news media crush to speak with him (250 people have credentials, which is more than their 2014 playoff appearance, the Angel’s officer said). Ohtani wasted no time in making another surprising achievement: He became the first player in baseball history to throw his team’s first pitch in a season (a strike to Jose Altuve, which Ohtani embraced) and , as a hitter, will face his team’s first pitch. in one season (before Trout, he ground out rookie Houston shortstop Jeremy Peña).
Then, of course, when Ohtani finished pitching for the night after 4 ⅔ innings, nine strikeouts, four hits, 80 pitches and a 1-0 deficit in a 3-1 win over Houston, he was comfortable moved to the assigned hitter role above The line of angels.
“You have to be a good ballplayer so they can change a rule for you.,” Said Houston Manager Dusty Baker, referring to MLB’s new rule that allows a player to move in the middle of DH game from the pitcher.
Baker, who in his 25th season as manager needed just 12 wins to become the 12th person to achieve 2,000 wins, talked about the difficulty of playing both ways and how “ sooner or later, ”when age starts to catch up with him, Ohtani may have to choose between hitting and pitching.
“How old is he, 27?” Baker asked before he laughed and acknowledged that age “can’t catch up with him for a while.”
Youth, like hope, seems to emerge forever at the dawn of a new era. Verlander, 39, is only the 10th pitcher aged 37 or older to be known to have Tommy John surgery, according to MLB.com (Verlander went through the 37-year process, already rehabilitated to 38 and became 39 on February 20).
But “his arm is probably 26. I’ve seen it before,” Baker said. “I saw it with Orel Hershiser. I saw it with Tommy John, the original Tommy John.
Astros All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman said of Verlander’s return: “It’s great. He’ll look great in spring training.”
As a Hall of Famer can be an active player, Verlander is third in the Astros rotation behind lefty Framber Valdez and righty Jake Odorizzi in part due to days not falling early in the Astros schedule. Houston wants to find Verlander an extra day to rest between starts if it can serve as a fence against fatigue. Despite Verlander’s year, a club that has played three of the last five World Series (2017, 2019, 2021) and is a favorite to return in October is delighted to add a talent to the marquee after losing the lights like Gerrit Cole (New York Yankees), George Springer (Toronto Blue Jays) and Carlos Correa (Minnesota Twins) to free the agency the past few winters.
Good thing, then, that new eras will also come with replacement parts. Peña, 24, made his major league debut on Thursday, filling the shortstop hole left by Correa. He is the son of former mayor leaguer Gerónimo Peña, who played for St. Louis. Louis (1990-1995) and Cleveland (1996). Jeremy played three seasons at the University of Maine and was Houston’s third-round pick in 2018. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, now a special assistant to Houston owner Jim Crane, enthusiastically told Peña during batting practice before Thursday’s opener. The Astros want to give their young shortstop space to improve at his own pace.
“We didn’t force him,” Baker said. “The world is probably forcing him, you know what I mean? Pressure is something you have to deal with in this game. Think of Didi Gregorius replacing Jeter, a guy who, what was he there, was 20 years? I’m in the same position, there has to be the next Hank Aaron in Atlanta, or Bobby Bonds the next Willie Mays. There’s always the next person. “
That all comes on time, blanks to be filled in the next six months of grinding. As of now, even veterans will feel like children when the curtain rises – at some point, at least. The ever-young Trout turned 31 on Aug. and admits that on returning home from a calf injury, he now works daily with Angel’s training staff on exercises so he stays “loose and flexible. “
“Things that when you’re young, you never pay attention to,” he said, before adding with a chuckle, “ask any of our training staff, I’m not flexible.”