The Angels open the season in a little more than three weeks against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in a game that will get billing as the debut of new Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon and the first true public reckoning of a team embroiled in a sign-stealing scandal. Adrenaline will be running high.
Angels manager Joe Maddon has simple advice for his players: Chill out and do not hit an Astros batter.
Maddon segued out of a light-hearted conversation about former Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy on Saturday morning to divulge that he planned to implore his team to turn the page on the controversy that has for months enveloped their American League West division rival.
“I think it’s more appropriate to play the game,” Maddon said. “I think this has been bandied about enough. There’s no other way. It’s been sliced and diced. It’s been in the Veg-O-Matic long enough. Let’s go play baseball. Let’s get things back together properly. Let’s be civil about this and move on.”
There was bad blood between the Angels and Astros last summer. Lucroy was flattened at the plate by former Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick in a July game that took place a few days after the death of Tyler Skaggs.
In a gruesome scene, a dazed and bloodied Lucroy, who was briefly knocked unconscious, rose to his knees before having to be laid back down and then helped to his feet and carted off the field. He suffered a concussion and broken nose.
Marisnick was disciplined by the league for the hit, but he appealed the suspension. While the league reevaluated his case, he played against the Angels 10 days later and was hit between the shoulders by reliever Noé Ramirez at Angel Stadium.
That situation was resolved. But ire toward the Astros was renewed when Commissioner Rob Manfred found the Astros guilty of illegally stealing signs during parts of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. No players were punished for taking part in a scheme that featured a staffer banging a trash can in the dugout to alert batters to a specific pitch that was coming.
Maddon does not want the Angels to go any further than that verbal expression of frustration.
“There will be a tumultuous uproar if we hit somebody and I get that, even though it’s not going to be intentional,” Maddon said. “It’s just the way the world works today. People need controversy to feed their lives daily. I’m telling you right now, that’s not going to be part of what I talk to the guys about.
“I wasn’t here last year, I wasn’t a part of this division last year. There could be some undercurrent. I get that. However, if we can set the right example out of the chute, I think it’d be very impactful. If anybody gets hit on their side, that’s purely because [the pitcher] may have gone inside and people get hit in baseball.”
Canning optimistic about elbow
Starting pitcher Griffin Canning is optimistic about his ailing right elbow after receiving an injection Friday of biological substances, which he believed to be plasma-rich platelets, to alleviate soreness.
He said Saturday morning none of the doctors he and the Angels consulted about his case suggested he had damage in his elbow that needed to be surgically repaired. They could only point to a bundle of inflamed tissues surrounding his elbow ligament as the cause of his discomfort.
“It’s just kind of some stuff rubbing against each other in there, so hopefully I’ll just get this injection and get some of the inflammation out of there and then get going,” Canning said.
Canning, who has been sidelined because of elbow discomfort three times since August, will be reevaluated in three to four weeks.