In 1969, St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood started carving the path toward free agency in professional sports, and in 1976, it became official: After six years of major league service, ballplayers could choose their next team on their own.
Angels reliever Andrew Bailey might be one of the first men since to not know he was becoming a free agent. The 32-year-old reached six years of service by three days last September, but believed he’d be arbitration-eligible until a reporter asked about his plans and he checked with his agent.
“I had no idea,” Bailey said this week at spring training, where he’s competing against Huston Street and Cam Bedrosian to become the Angels’ closer. “That was pretty cool.”
Bailey agreed on a one-year, $1 million contract with the Angels six days after he was granted free agency. The deal includes incentives for him to make more money if be becomes the closer.
He never seriously considered leaving, and if he had been arbitration-eligible after all, he could’ve been non-tendered and later signed anyway. Because he had racked up 95 saves in his younger days with Oakland and Boston, before his shoulder reconstruction, the arbitration process would tag him with a larger salary than teams were willing to pay.
“I feel like, with where I’m at in my career and what I’ve been through,” he said, “signing early and getting something done and focusing on getting ready for this year was more important to me than chasing something else.”
After Philadelphia released Bailey last summer, the Angels signed him to a minor league deal and called him up in September. With Street and Bedrosian hurt, Bailey seized the closer role and saved six games over 12 appearances. He struck out eight, walked two, and recorded a 2.38 earned-run average, while averaging 92.1 mph with his fastball.
He spoke last season about the continued fight to regain that lost velocity. But, over the off-season, he came to realize that sticking with what he has is a smarter, safer decision for the health of his surgically repaired shoulder.
“I was looking at the numbers, and I’m about a tick down from where I was in 2009 to 2012,” he said. “But, I think, 92 or 93 gets the job done with good location, and feeling good every day. I think I’m fine where I’m at.
“Obviously everyone wants more, and I do too, but at some point it’s about: At what risk? If I’m going to start chasing it, there’s got to be a risk too, or something that’s got to give.”
The Angels announced on Friday afternoon that right-hander Yusmeiro Petit will draw the start in the club’s Cactus League opener on Saturday. The Angels will host Milwaukee at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Sunday’s starters against Oakland at Hohokam Stadium will be right-hander Bud Norris, and right-hander J.C. Ramirez will start Monday against San Diego in Tempe. Other expected pitchers over the first three games include right-handers Deolis Guerra, Mike Morin, Brooks Pounders and Daniel Wright and left-handers Jose Alvarez and Nate Smith. The likely members of the opening-day rotation won’t make their debuts until next week.
Mike Trout will not play Saturday, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, and neither will many expected regulars because the spring schedule is lengthened by the World Baseball Classic.
“It’s already too long of a spring for your offensive players,” Scioscia said. “They certainly don’t need the 30-whatever games to get ready. If they did, you’re giving them 120 at-bats, which is not what they need.”
Trevor Moawad, who calls himself a mental conditioning coach, gave a presentation to the Angels on Friday. He has been roaming around camp in recent days. Moawad worked with the 2016 UCLA Bruins and has spoken to a number of collegiate and professional teams.…On Thursday, several Angels visited a local escape room, where groups work together to find their way out of an assembled indoor maze. The St. Louis Cardinals completed a similar feat as a team-building exercise during their spring training in Florida.