Angels to continue use of opener despite Taylor Cole’s recent struggles

Angels starting pitcher Taylor Cole throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning Monday in Cincinnati.
Angels starting pitcher Taylor Cole throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning Monday in Cincinnati.
(Gary Landers / Associated Press)

A tough couple of outings by an opener will not deter the Angels from employing a strategy that generally has been effective this season.

Manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday that using a reliever to start the first inning or two of games “absolutely makes sense” a day after the Angels’ record when using an opener dropped to 12-10.

The Angels can point to at least one success story: Felix Pena, a starter who struggled to pitch late into games when taking the mound in the first inning. Pena thrived as a “primary pitcher,” posting a 4.32 ERA in 14 outings after replacing the opener. The ERA ballooned to 5.34 in seven traditional starts, of which he made three in the second half before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Saturday.

On the other hand, second-year pitcher Jaime Barria has not warmed well to the scheme. He owns a 11.15 ERA in four games as the Angels’ primary pitcher and a more palatable 4.08 ERA in six starts.

A successful outing by an opener allows the primary pitcher to delay facing the top of the order for a third time until later in the game — if he does so at all. That hasn’t been the case for the Angels the last two times they’ve used one. Taylor Cole has given up nine runs in his last two outings. The five he yielded in Monday’s 7-4 loss prevented rookie Patrick Sandoval from possibly earning a win in his major league debut despite pitching five strong innings.

MLB Players’ Weekend will be back the weekend of Aug. 23-25, when players will be able to wear nicknames on the back of their jerseys.

Aug. 6, 2019


“I still think it’s extremely viable depending on who the starter is and the availability of your relief corps,” Ausmus said.

Cole has served as an opener all five times the Angels have employed one in the second half, beginning with the July 12 combined no-hitter the Angels threw in their first home game after Tyler Skaggs’ death. He had pitched three scoreless starts before Saturday’s four-run debacle.

The Angels have not yet scheduled an opener during the four-game series in Boston this weekend.

“It has to be someone who is comfortable with it and has the capability, usually, to get righty and lefty hitters out,” Ausmus said.

Minor leaguer honored for hot July

Gareth Morgan was named the California League player of the month for July. The 23-year-old outfielder led the league in homers (12), RBIs (28), slugging (.664) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.014).

Morgan, the 74th pick of the 2014 draft, signed a minor league deal with the Angels in April shortly after being released by the Seattle Mariners.

Despite a strikeout rate approaching 50% over 44 games for the high-A team, Morgan was promoted to double-A Mobile on Aug. 1. He took the roster spot of top prospect Jo Adell, who was elevated to triple A the same day.

Another Angels prospect worthy of consideration for player of the month honors was shut out by the Dodgers’ Gavin Lux. Jared Walsh, currently on the 25-man roster, hit .358 with a 1.307 OPS. His 13 home runs and 29 RBIs paced the Pacific Coast League. He was also second in doubles (11). But Lux led the league in batting average (.435), on-base percentage (.519) and OPS (1.356).


Short hops

Players Weekend is approaching at the end of the month, and rookie Ty Buttrey learned Tuesday that his somewhat salacious nickname was accepted by the league to be displayed on his jersey. He chose a peach emoji to represent the “butt” portion of his surname and a tree emoji for the latter half. . . . Noe Ramirez threw a bullpen session Tuesday for the first time since coming down with a viral infection severe enough to be placed on the injured list July 27. He could begin a rehab assignment this weekend. Once reinstated, he will begin the three-game suspension he received for throwing at Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick.