ANAHEIM, Calif. – The calf, hip and elbow showed up at Angel Stadium on Thursday night, and it wasn’t a joke for a man to go to a bar. Rather, as the sun rose in the west in a new baseball season, three body parts came together that, one way or another, will play a major role in the AL West race.
Indeed, one of the beauties of the new season is that it not only comes full of optimism and promise for the coming summer, but for some players it also includes muscles and joints to be brought back together after being tense, pulled, torn or worn out the previous year.
That was Mike Trout’s right calf, well for 2022, after a tear limited him to just 36 games last year. His Los Angeles teammate, third baseman Anthony Randon, returned to the squad after surgery last August to repair a blow to his right thigh that shortened his season after 58 games.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Houston will include his former ace Justin Verlander in his rotation following Tommy John’s operation two September ago, which, along with other health issues, kept him out of baseball for all but one of 2019’s appearances.
Together, these three players have won four Most Valuable Player Awards (Trout 3, Verlander 1), two Sai Young Awards (Verlander), 18 All-Star Games (Trout 9, Verlander 8, Randon 1) and two titles. from the World Series (Verlander with Astros 2017; Rendon with Nationals 2019).
In total, they have contracts worth 696.5 million dollars (Trut 426.5 million dollars for 12 years, Randon 245 million dollars for seven and Verlander 25 million dollars for 2022).
Each one is an important pillar, as the Astros are aiming for their fifth division title in the last six seasons, and the Angels are aiming to enter the post-season for the first time since 2014.
“A lot of exciting things are ahead,” Trout said, and if that’s not the credo of the first day in all 30 clubs in the major leagues, it certainly fits into both dugouts here.
Trout, Randon and Shohei Otani, AL’s MVP for 2021, have appeared together in the Angels only 17 times last season. If this happens again, the angels have sunk.
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While Trout and Otani are megastars, Randon’s continuing health problems have led some to forget the impact he can have on the field.
“He’s one of those guys who can stay on the radar at times, especially with the high-ranking guys we have, but he’s as influential as any of them,” Angels general manager Perry Minazian told Rendon this spring. “He is one of the best strikers in the game, one of the best players in the game. He has exceptional abilities, he is a winner in many post-seasons. “
In Washington’s bid for the 2019 World Series title, Randon scored 126 runs in the top league and also topped the NL with 44 doubles. He hit .319 with .412 percent at base and smashed 34 home runs.
However, playing with Ohtani, it’s easy for Rendon – or anyone else, including Trout – to slip under that radar.
Ohtani’s appeal was evident in the crowd of 44,723 sold out on Thursday night. This was evident in the noticeably loud applause before the match for his translator Ipei Mizuhara and in attracting news media to talk to him (250 people were accredited, which was more than t for their participation in the playoffs in 2014, Angels officials said) . Otani wasted no time in creating another mind-boggling achievement: he became the first player in baseball history to make his team’s first pitch of the season (a shot by Jose Altuve that Otani sniffed) and as a striker to face his team’s first pitch. in one season (repelling the lead over Trout, he retired from Houston rookie Jeremy Pena).
Then, of course, when Otani finished the night’s serve after 4 ⅔ innings, nine outs, four goals, 80 pitches and a 1-0 deficit in a 3-1 win over Houston, he moved comfortably into the role of striker. top Composition of angels.
“You have to be a great player to be able to change a rule for you,” said Houston manager Dusty Baker, referring to the new MLB rule, which allows a player to move midway to DH from a pitcher.
Baker, who in his 25th season as a manager needs only 12 wins to become the 12th person to score 2,000 wins, talks about the difficulty of playing in two ways and how “sooner or later” when age begins to catching up with him, Otani may have to choose between hitting and passing.
“How old is he, 27?” Baker asked before laughing, admitting that he would not be old for a while.
Youth, like hope, seems to spring forever at the dawn of a new season. The 39-year-old Verlander is only the 10th pitcher aged 37 or over who is known to have operated on Tommy John, according to MLB.com (Verlander underwent the procedure at 37, rehabilitated to 38 and turned 39 on February 20). .
But “his hand is probably 26. I’ve seen it before,” Baker said. “I saw him with Orel Hershizer. I saw him with Tommy John, the original Tommy John.
Verlander’s return from Astros’ third All-Star baseman said, “He’s great. He looked great in spring training.”
As secure a member of the Hall of Fame as an active player, Verlander was third in the Astros rotation after left-hander Framber Valdes and right-winger Jake Odorizzi, in part because of the way the weekend falls at the top of the Astros schedule. Houston intends to spot Verlander an extra day off between starts, when possible, as protection against fatigue. However, Verlander’s year turns out to be a club that has played in three of the last five World Series (2017, 2019, 2021) and is a favorite to return again in October, excited to add talent to the tent after losing such luminaries such as Gerrit Cole (New York Yankees), George Springer (Toronto Blue Jays) and Carlos Correa (Minnesota Gemini) on a free agency over the past few winters.
It is good then that the new seasons come with spare parts. The 24-year-old Pena advanced to his major league on Thursday, plugging the hole in the short point left by Korea. He is the son of former high-class footballer Geronimo Pena, who played for St. Louis (1990-1995) and Cleveland (1996). Jeremy played three seasons at the University of Maine and was selected for Houston in the third round in 2018. Reggie Jackson, who is now a special assistant to Houston owner Jim Crane, spoke radiantly about Penny during a cotton workout before Thursday’s start. Astros intend to give their young short stop space to develop at their own pace.
“We are not putting pressure on him,” Baker said. “The world can put pressure on him, do you know what I mean?” Pressure is something you have to deal with in this game. Imagine Didi Gregorius taking over Jeter, a man who, what was there, for 20 years? I was in the same position, I had to be the next Hank Aaron in Atlanta or Bobby Bonds the next Willie Mace. There’s always someone next. “
All this comes with time, the blanks need to be filled in the next six months. For now, even veterans feel like children when the curtain rises – at least for a while. The eternally young Trout turned 31 in August and admitted that returning from a calf injury, he now works daily with the Angels’ training staff on exercises to keep him “free and flexible.”
“Things you don’t really pay attention to when you’re a little younger,” he said before adding with a smile, “ask one of our training staff, I’m not very flexible.”