The Los Angeles Angels will host the Houston Astros on Sunday in Anaheim, Calif., in the final game of the season-opening four-game series, hoping their young corner outfielders will begin to reach their potential.
Jo Adell, 23, and Brandon Marsh, 24, will flank center fielder Mike Trout in the outfield. The organization decided it was time to go all in on its youth by designating for assignment veteran Justin Upton shortly before the end of spring training.
It was an expensive decision: Upton was owed $28 million in the final season of a five-year, $106 million contract. He had a decent spring, going 5-for-15 with three homers.
“This was a really, really difficult decision we spent a lot of time on, thought about and talked about,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. “We just felt like Jo and Brandon are both ready to go. … It was more about them and what they’ve done this spring.
“Jo, I think anybody that’s seen him play this spring (would think he’s) been pretty impressive on both sides of the ball. And obviously Brandon, too. Defensively, the athleticism they both bring and, on the bases, they both give us a different dynamic that we haven’t had in the past. So we felt like there they were really good fits.”
Adell and Marsh will get most of the starts for now, but Taylor Ward also will be in the mix. Ward, though, is on the injured list with a strained groin.
“To be honest with you, I think it’s going to be a group effort,” Marsh said. “I don’t know what the positions are. I know Trout’s in center … we’re going to fill in the corners.”
Adell is off to a slow start, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts on Opening Day. Jose Rojas started in the outfield in Adell’s place on Friday, but Adell entered the game off the bench and struck out in both of his at-bats.
Saturday, Adell was on the bench again.
Marsh is 2-for-7 with two walks in the Angels’ first three games.
Left-hander Jose Suarez will be on the mound Sunday for the Angels, making his first start of the season after going 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 23 games (14 starts) last year. He is 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA in seven career games (five starts) vs. Houston.
Jose Urquidy will make his season debut on the mound for the Astros. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in six career games (five starts) against the Angels. He finished 8-3 with a 3.62 ERA overall last season.
The Astros are content with their corner outfielders as well in Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker. Particularly Tucker, who had a breakout season last year when he hit .294 with 30 homers, 92 RBIs and a .917 OPS.
He put up those numbers despite a slow start to the season — he hit just .181 with a .610 OPS in April. So getting off to a better start this year has been a focus. He went 0-for-3 on Opening Day on Thursday, but homered twice on Friday. He went 1-for-3 on Saturday.
“Obviously, there’s always things to improve on,” Tucker said. “I’d like to not to get out to a slow start. I’ll just go out there and try to play my best. I learned a lot of things last year. If I continue to do that and build off of that, it will be a pretty good year.”
–Field Level Media