TEMPE, Ariz. — Could the Angels open the season without a left-hander in the bullpen?
That is one of the possibilities they are considering in the wake of an elbow injury to Brian Moran, the left-hander selected by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft last December.
Moran has not pitched in a week because of elbow soreness. The injury is not considered serious.
Sean Burnett has been all but ruled out for Opening Day. The Angels can option Nick Maronde, the only left-handed reliever remaining in camp beyond Burnett and Moran, to the minor leagues.
They can’t send Moran to the minors without first offering him back to the Seattle Mariners and — if the Mariners declined to take him back — exposing him to waivers. They also could put Moran on the disabled list, and they haven’t ruled out that he could return in time to make the Opening Day roster.
If he did, Moran would be the first Rule 5 pick to make the Angels roster since pitcher Derrick Turnbow in 2000. Moran, 25, has never pitched in the major leagues.
“That would be a dream come true,” Moran said. “But there’s so much that can happen between now and Opening Day, and I try not to be an imaginary GM.”
Moran would be a situational left-hander in an American League West stacked with left-handed hitters including Robinson Cano, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. Moran pitched at triple-A Tacoma last season, where left-handers hit .235 off him and right-handers .341.
Burnett, meanwhile, has yet to make his Cactus League debut. He said he usually gets eight or nine spring appearances but can get “pretty locked in” with four or five.
However, it is unlikely he would appear in a Cactus League game before next week, and it is even more unlikely the Angels would rush a pitcher coming off surgery to get ready for the opener in one week.
Burnett threw fastballs and changeups in a bullpen session Wednesday and said the changeup was “as good as I’ve ever had.”
“It used to be my best pitch before Tommy John [surgery],” Burnett said. “Maybe it’s back.”
With Josh Hamilton making his first appearance in left field this spring, the Angels’ lineup Wednesday might well be the same as on Opening Day: Kole Calhoun, rf; Mike Trout, cf; Albert Pujols, 1b; Hamilton, lf; David Freese, 3b; Raul Ibanez, dh; Howie Kendrick, 2b; Chris Iannetta, c; Erick Aybar, ss.
Tyler Skaggs is the starting pitcher Wednesday. Jered Weaver is expected to start the March 31 opener against Seattle.