The Angels might just have to pray there aren’t very many starts to fill before Tyler Skaggs can come back.
Nick Tropeano struggled yet again in his battle for the final spot in the rotation, and the Halos settled for an 8-8 tie with the Chicago Cubs on Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Tropeano, in his first start back after fighting the flu, allowed five earned runs on six hits in four innings of work, including a monster three-run homer to Jason Heyward. Tropeano may have one more chance to win a rotation spot against these same Cubs in the Halos’ exhibition finale at Angel Stadium on Sunday, but his 7.82 ERA won’t help as he battles Matt Shoemaker for what seems like only a temporary stint in Anaheim.
Offensively, the Angels got home runs from Mike Trout and Albert Pujols as part of a five-run fourth inning against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. Carlos Perez also got into the act with a single, RBI and the front end of a double steal that allowed Andrelton Simmons to swipe home on the back end.
Decision time for bullpen nears
With the rotation all but set, the battle for pitching roster spots has largely focused on the bullpen. Huston Street and Joe Smith are locked into the closer and setup roles, respectively. Mike Morin has rediscovered has 2014 form and seems all but certain to make the team. Fernando Salas has also looked more like his 2014 self. The rest of the bullpen could go in any direction, though options and contracts will dictate some of it. Left to battle are Al Albuquerque, Cam Bedrosian, Javy Guerra, Greg Mahle, Cory Rasmus and Jose Alvarez. Some feel Alvarez is a lock as the only lefty, however, manager Mike Scioscia has never bought into that belief as his bullpen configurations during the early and mid 2000s show.
Position players much clearer
On the field, the Angels really only have one slot left, with Ji-Man Choi and Todd Cunningham the two gunning for it.
The outfield will be Daniel Nava in left, Trout in center, Kole Calhoun in right and Craig Gentry spelling Nava against lefties while serving as a late-inning baserunning and defensive guy when he doesn’t start. The infield will be Yunel Escobar at third, Simmons at shortstop, Johnny Giavotella at second and Pujols at first, with C.J. Cron serving as the designated hitter and spelling Pujols at first from time-to-time. The utility infield spot will be filled by Cliff Pennington, and the catchers are Perez and Geovany Soto.
Both have roster considerations to deal with, as Cunningham is out of options and Choi is a Rule 5 pick that must be either be kept on the roster all season or offered back to the Baltimore Orioles for $25,000. Infielders Jeffry Marte and Rey Navarro, and outfielder Rafael Ortega all seem headed back to the minors after getting some exhibition experience under the major league lights this coming weekend.