TEMPE, Ariz. – Most organizations start the spring with hope and a clean slate. The Angels in Los Angeles are different. Every year, it seems, they gather behind the boulder that had fallen on them the previous season and, groaning and insisting, regroup and begin to try to push it back up the mountain.
The Angels of spring, though, is no different translation of “Let’s See if We Can Get Mike Trout to the Playoffs.” However, it is a battered and battered organization that has emerged from a disastrous winter.
In February, less than two years after the tragic death of Tyler Skaggs, former team communications director Eric Kay was convicted in a Texas court of distributing fentanyl-laced opioid to Skaggs that resulted in death of the pitcher. During the trial, former Angels Matt Harvey, CJ Cron, Mike Morin and Cam Bedrosian confirmed that they got painkillers like oxycodone from Kay.
Kay, who has been a friend and colleague of most of the Angels front office for more than 20 years – as well as several players this year – is set to be sentenced in June and face decades in prison.
It’s safe to say that each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams can’t wait to get to spring training and go through the so-called owner lockout that paralyzes the game most of the winter. But no team needs an annual rebirth more than the Angels.
“It’s just hard to define, of course you don’t want to see the negative publicity accumulated by your team,” said Manager Joe Maddon, who was in charge of the Chicago Cubs when Skaggs died. “And, plus, it’s hard to listen to all the people involved, and then of course Skaggs’ death … all horrible.
“As such, it’s up to us now to try to improve the good side of this organization. We’ve had one tragedy, and that’s another. You want to talk about Nick Adenhart, that’s another. There’s a lot going on here. ”
Adenhart, a promising 22-year-old pitcher, died in a car crash on Friday night after a game at Angel Stadium in April 2009. Next, outfielder Lyman Bostock was shot dead after a game in Chicago last year. 1978. And formerly closer Donnie Moore died by suicide in 1989.
“I was there, I knew Donnie very well,” said Maddon, who in his decades with the organization – broken by two managerial stints at other clubs – was a minor league coach when Moore died and a minor league catcher when Bostock was killed. “There are a lot of things, and we want to erase that image and move on.”
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In the back Field 3 across the parking lot from Tempe Diablo Stadium here the previous day, the Angels tried to do so as Noah Syndergaard, who signed a one -year, $ 21 million deal to move away from the Mets, passed and 50 pitches. in a minor league game. The start came two years to the day after he underwent surgery by Tommy John. His rehabilitation from surgery limited him to a couple of one -inning starts last year.
“I could hardly sleep last night,” said Syndergaard, whose fastball flies between 93 and 95 miles per hour, according to a nearby scout’s radar gun, and who has passed his first sliders in competition since the operation. “My nerves have been running all morning.”
Syndergaard found early comfort in his new organization because of his long-standing relationship with Perry Minasian, Angel’s general manager. Minasian was a pro scout in Toronto when the Blue Jays drafted Syndergaard in 2010, two years before they sold him to the Mets in a deal with RA Dickey.
“That was inspiring,” Syndergaard said of his familiarity with Minasian. “Someone who saw my ability and talent from the start. And I knew I could play Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, two of the most exciting players to walk the earth. And that’s about it.”
Of course, Syndergaard also knows something about Angels. And that’s what the Texas court played out after he signed.
“We got the news about it,” he said. “It was a big, traumatic and bad thing that happened. I just wanted to inform and give light and raise Tyler ‘s name as much as I could.
Minasian, who entered his second year as general manager, was an assistant general manager in Atlanta when Skaggs died in 2019. The Angels ’top baseball man at the time was the Mets’ new general manager, Billy Eppler. That is why Minasian does not know many details. He was just happy that the second team he had assembled was already out and on the fields.
“It’s so nice to be here,” Minasian said. “Seeing some faces on the field, Anthony Rendons, Mike Trouts, put a big smile on my face.”
The Angels have been very lackluster in pitching over the past few years, the biggest reason Trout, 30, has only played three playoff games in 11 seasons-none since the Angels were swept in their American League division series in 2014. Minasian specifically targets personality as he retools staff this year, prioritizing aggression in addition to talent. That’s why he zeroed out Syndergaard despite the fact that the great right-hander has only made two major league innings in the past two seasons since he recovered from elbow surgery.
“He would fit in that mold with one of the better pitchers in the game when he was Noah,” Minasian said.
When was he Noah? But what about Thor? What is more frightening?
“Yes, Thor, Noah, whatever,” Minasian said with a smile. “I’d love to see him on the hill.”
Minasian and Maddon both say that, as they did with the removal of the “Ohtani Rules” last year from the Most Valuable Player of the American League, they will not put any restrictions on Syndergaard and move the pitcher. at work.
“You don’t want to interfere with someone’s dignity,” Maddon said, adding, “We’re likely to be tight. And now the account of starting pitching has really diminished. We don’t have marquee matchups anymore. That’s one. a big part of why fans are attracted to some teams and some games on some nights. The starting pitchers are thoroughbreds, and we have to do it again. ”
The Angels also added three free-agent right-handers to their bullpen Ryan Tepera (who was with the White Sox last year), Aaron Loup (Mets) and Archie Bradley (Phillies). As Minasian says, “The average start in the big leagues is five and third innings. That’s why your bullpen is an everyday player.”
“Over the last few years, the vision of this team has been that it’s a constantly stacked lineup, big names,” Tepera said. “They just always need a little bit of focusing on a lot of men’s eyes to take them to the next step.”
In all of this, Trout, who signed a 12 -year, $ 426.5 million deal in 2019, smiled and appeared to remain even more patient. After he was limited by a torn calf to a career -low 36 games last year, he said he worked on his flexibility during the winter – he will stay on center field even if Maddon floats the idea of moving him into a corner – watching Minasian add pitching, catch some white -tailed deer with his bow and arrow, and enjoy life with his son.
From a distance, he also looked on inevitably with sadness.
“It’s hard for everyone, the baseball family in general,” Trout told reporters about Kay’s trial upon his arrival at camp. He politely declined to elaborate on an interview on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Minasian also made a more valuable claim before camp. Due to the lockout, the Angels released Ohtani’s longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. It was a technicality: During the lockout, as a front-office employee, Mizuhara was not allowed to talk to Ohtani.
So the Angels released him – but brought him back when the lockout was over.
“It makes sense, it’s the most natural way to handle the situation,” Mizuhara said, smiling. “They guarantee me that I can come back. I’m not too worried. ”