Ron Washington Shares the Latest From Los Angeles Angels Camp

From a key bullpen injury and the ripple effects to advice for young players, Ron Washington updates us on the latest in Angels camp.

TEMPE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24: Manager Ron Washington(L) of the Los Angeles Angels smiles against the Los Angeles Dodgers during a spring training game at the Peoria Sports Complex on February 24, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Relief pitcher Robert Stephenson was signed as a free agent this offseason to be a big part of the plans for the Los Angeles Angels to bulk up their bullpen.

However, because of a lingering shoulder injury, Stephenson has yet to pitch this spring, and manager Ron Washington believes time is running out for the right-hander to be ready for Opening Day.

“It’s a matter of him just getting through the discomfort,” Washington said on Friday, adding that Stephenson has been through all of the testing that can be done to measure the severity of his injury. “I think he understands what is the issue, and I think he has a better grasp of some stuff he’s just going to have to deal with.

“It will get better in the distance, but, before that, he was unsure. The kid was scared. He never had that kind of discomfort before, but it’s nothing major. Now he knows that and I think we will progress a little quicker, but I don’t know if it’s going to be quick enough for him to be available for us to open the season. Not with eight or nine days left (in spring training).”

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The domino effect of Stephenson’s injury

With Stephenson perhaps unavailable to open the season in the bullpen, the Angels may keep José Soriano in a relief role while also continuing to ensure he is stretched out to be an option for the rotation when Stephenson returns.

Soriano appeared in 38 games last season for the Angels, registering 15 holds along with a 3.64 ERA over 42.0 innings. However, his role may change drastically in 2024.

As discussed in Just Baseball’s Angels season preview, Soriano is certainly an option for Washington in a rotation that still has plenty of questions. However, all options are now on the table, according to Washington, for the 25-year-old right-hander until Stephenson’s injury situation is cleared up.

“We decided we wanted to see if Soriano can start and, so far, he has proven to us that he possibly can,” Washington said. “Now with Stephenson down, that means we have a void in that bullpen. Now we’re going to make a decision on that need. A long-term need would be Soriano being a starter, but if we can’t fill that void in the bullpen, Soriano has done it before, so we have an option.

“You deal with what’s in front of you in the moment. Once you get that taken care of and you clear up the problem that started that, which would be Stephenson. He gets well and that problem goes away.”

Washington went on to say that the Angels will need starters in 2024. If Soriano spends too much time in the bullpen and Los Angeles still wants him to be a part of the rotation, going back to the minors to stretch back out may have to be an option down the road.

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Washington on Spring Breakout, Angels prospects

The Angels manager said he will be watching Saturday night’s Spring Breakout showcase against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Tempe from the stands. The game will feature plenty of young talent for the Angels, and Washington has had the chance to watch some of that young talent, including the franchise’s second-ranked prospect, Nelson Rada, early in camp.

While the game will feature players who may comprise the future for the Angels, Washington said he gave those prospects advice on what they need to do in the present to get to that point for the franchise.

“I left them with this. Learn the game,” Washington explained. “When a situation is going on out there, and you’re on the offensive side, look at your teammate that is up there at the plate and think about it as if you’re at the plate. What would you be doing right here? You can’t just be blank.

“When you’re on the offensive side and the ball is put in play, you watch how the defense reacts to certain things at your position. It’s about learning the game. They got a lot to learn and I want them to continue to do that by paying attention to the game. Not only when it’s about you, but pay attention when it’s not about you. You can learn from that also.”

Washington hinted that even some of the younger players like Zach Neto, Nolan Schanuel and Logan O’Hoppe who earned MLB playing time last year still had plenty of room for improvement in 2024.

“They’re getting up here so fast and there’s a lot that goes on up here that exposed them when they were here,” Washington said. “They went through it, but they still got exposed. And you can see the inexperience. I just let them know that they have to gain experience, so the only way they can do that is learn the game, and more than the physical part of it. Learn the fundamentals of it. Learn the mental side of it. Learn how to deal with adversity. All that type of stuff.”

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