The big-budget Angels believe they’ve got the talent and stability to end their streaks of five straight losing seasons — the franchise’s longest skid since the 1970s — and six consecutive non-playoff campaigns.
The team gets its first test of the 2021 campaign Thursday when they host the resurgent Chicago White Sox, another team looking to improve in the American League after last year’s pandemic-shortened season.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Right-hander Dylan Bundy, who is coming off a season in which he posted a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts with 72 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings, will start on the mound of the Angels. Andrew Heaney will start Game 2, Alex Cobb is slated to pitch on Saturday before Shohei Ohtani handles the four-game finale on Sunday.
Here’s the Angels’ projected lineup.
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1. David Fletcher, 2B
2. Shohei Ohtani, DH
3. Mike Trout, CF
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4. Anthony Rendon, 3B
5. Justin Upton, LF
6. Albert Pujols, 1B
7. José Iglesias, SS
8. Max Stassi, C
9. Dexter Fowler, RF
Limited groups of fans at Angel Stadium should provide a big boost for a team that will welcome the help. With much of the AL West rebuilding or rebooting, the timing could be right for Los Angeles to get Mike Trout’s first playoff victory.
Coming off an unimpressive year by his peerless standards, Trout is back with Anthony Rendon for their first full season together after the team went 26-34 in a shortened season.
Starting pitching has been the Angels’ biggest problem for years, and new GM Minasian addressed it only by acquiring Jose Quintana and Cobb instead of bigger-name targets. Minasian is also overhauling the Halos’ awful bullpen, starting with new closer Raisel Iglesias.
While they’re talented enough to win now, this also is a transition year for the Angels, with only four players under contract past 2021 — including Ohtani, who will be a two-way player again after a rough 2020.
Ohtani was hitting the cover off the ball in spring training, and the early results from his return to the mound are promising.
This is also a probable farewell season for the 41-year-old Alex Pujols, the oldest player in the majors as he hits the final summer of his 10-year contract with a fraction of his prime production.