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Jeff Fletcher | LA Angels Insider, SoCal News Group

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July 5, 2023 6:12 am

Jeff Fletcher | LA Angels Insider, SoCal News Group

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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July 5, 2023 6:12 am

Los Angeles Angels insider Jeff Fletcher from the SoCal News Group joins the show to talk Mike Trout's injury, what it means for the Angels moving forward, and the future of Shohei Ohtani in Anaheim.

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Visit att.com slash hypergig for details. Right now we're pleased to welcome Jeff Fletcher from San Diego, covers the Angels for SoCal News Group. Jeff, the Mike Trout Injury News, finding out he'll be out of the lineup for a significant amount of time.

What's your reaction? Well, it's been a really bad break for the Angels. They were actually playing pretty good baseball up until mid-June, and then they've just lost everybody to injuries all at once. Now losing Mike Trout, who is just starting to hit like Mike Trout again, it's a pretty tough break for them. It looks like the very best-case scenario is he misses a month, and more likely it's closer to six weeks or two months. That takes a big chunk out of the season, and they really need to play well to finally get into the playoffs.

They definitely have a challenge in front of them now. In the game, we saw Otani leave with, I guess it's a blister now, that little finger. Is the same little finger that he had the cracked fingernail?

Yeah, it is. I think what happened is they put some kind of an acrylic thing on his fingernail to keep that together, and I think that sort of caused the blister around the area. So it's not a super serious thing, and now with the all-star break, he's got about ten days before he's got to pitch again, so I don't think anybody's really worried about it, but it's just another thing piled on that they have to deal with.

And then Anthony Rendon as well. Any news about him after he left the game? Well, he fouled the ball off his shin, and then nothing was broken, which is good, but it was pretty badly bruised, and he was in a lot of pain, and he was walking on crutches after the game. So I would expect him to go on the IL tomorrow, and still, because they've just got the three games left before the all-star break, best-case scenario, just miss the ten days on the IL and be back right after the break.

But I think that's... I would not expect him to play the rest of the last three games. Sounds like this break couldn't come any quicker for the Angels, but they desperately need it. Yeah, they definitely do, and they also... Zack Nadeau, their shortstop, has been out since mid-June, and they're hoping to get him after the break. And Brandon Drury, their second baseman, who really should be on the all-star team, he's probably had one of the best seasons of any second baseman in the league, he's had a shoulder injury, so he's out till after the all-star break. So they're missing... that's going to be five of their everyday players all have gotten hurt in the last month.

And actually, Gio Arcela is out for the year now, too, he's been kind of an everyday player. And Logan Ojapi, their starting catcher, got hurt back in April, and he's still out. It's a pretty patchwork lineup they've got going out there, but most of the guys look like they're going to come back at some point here in the first month or six weeks after the break, so they just need to kind of find a way to play well until they get the cavalry back. Jeff Fletcher is with us from San Diego, where the Angels are taking on the Padres, lost on Tuesday night on July 4th, and he covers the team for the SoCal News Group.

It's after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. The injuries notwithstanding, they've managed to stay part of that AL West race for most of the first half of the season. What do the Angels look like when they're playing their best baseball? You know, on paper, they look like a pretty solid team that's pretty good at everything. Their starting rotation, they've got Patrick Sandoval, Reed Detmers were both very good last year, and they're both still young, and then you add Otani on top of that.

That's a pretty good top three. This year, Sandoval has not been so good, but still that's the core that should be there. And then Griffin Canning, who missed the year and after the back injury, he's come back and he's been pretty good. And Tyler Anderson, who's actually been not very good for most of the year, he was an All-Star last year, so that's a lot of pieces for a good rotation. Their bullpen, you know, Carlos Estevez has been one of the best closers in the league this year.

He also should have been an All-Star. Matt Moore has come back and been pretty good, but he's been hurt. Some young guys like Jose Soriano have come back and been pretty good. So they have the pieces for a pretty good bullpen too. And the lineup, you know, with Otani, Trout, Brandon Drury's been good. Hunter Renfro is good for most of the first half, kind of slumped in the last month or so.

Mickey Moniac, the former number one overall pick, who's kind of slumped with the Phillies. They got him last year in a trade, and he's come up and been really good. So you add all this stuff up, and on paper they look like they really should be better than they are. And they still could be, you know, if they get guys healthy. You know, all the stuff has gone wrong we've talked about, and they're two games over.500 right now. So they're within range, but they definitely need to get some guys healthy and get a good run of keeping them healthy and playing some good baseball. For the sake of argument, Jeff, if they drop a little bit or lose a little more ground because of the injuries, how does this impact what they do at the trade deadline? Well, I mean, the first question is a Shohei Ohtani question, and I think that they really do not want to trade him because they feel like they want to try to win this year, no matter what.

And if they're in striking distance, they want to hang on to him. And they also want to try to re-sign him after the season, and so obviously it's a lot easier to do that if you keep them until the end of the season. If they do fall back like seven games out of a playoff spot or so, then it starts to get kind of dicey to take that risk.

So we'll definitely see what happens. As for going the other direction and adding, I mean, I think that's what they would like to do. They would like to probably add a starting pitcher and a reliever maybe. And, you know, who knows, depending which of these position players are hurt, when they get to the deadline, that could affect what they need in that sense. They do have a lot of position players that can play multiple positions, so they could sort of take anybody who's available and fit them in.

So that's definitely something that they would look to do, I think, if they can play a little better and really show some reason to believe that they have the guys there to make a good run. How much does this hang over the heads of the organization, do you think? This looming decision about Otani, you mentioned the risk involved, but also this idea that they may lose him if they don't make the playoffs or if they don't finish strong and remain part of the equation in the AL? Well, I think it certainly is a thing that was talked about all the time around the organization. I don't know how much actually within the organization, because I think that if you're General Manager Perry Manasian, you're just thinking, we're keeping him. And it's not really something that they probably talk about, trading him or any of that kind of thing, and they hope to be able to re-sign him. But certainly everybody else in the baseball world talks about it all the time, and it's certainly a big subject surrounding the Angels, even if they're not actually talking about it themselves.

It's definitely a story that is not going to go away. What do you think, does it come up every day, every other day? Pretty much every day, especially every time they lose a game. People go crazy like, oh, that's it, season's over, great Otani. And then they win a couple games and it's like, oh, you know, maybe we got a chance, maybe he's going to re-sign, you know, whatever.

It's quite a rollercoaster. Jeff Fletcher is the Angels beat writer for SoCal News Group, it's after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. You wrote a book about Shohei Otani, it's the inside story of him and the greatest baseball season ever played. I think that a lot of American baseball fans want to know more about him because of the language barrier, maybe a little more of the culture barrier. What was it like to write a book about him?

Well, I mean, it's a great story. It's something that none of us alive have ever seen anybody do this. I mean, it's just so incredibly difficult to be a pitcher and a hitter at the level he's at. Not just doing it as like kind of a sideshow where, you know, these guys like Michael Lorenz and it's like, oh, it's kind of neat. Look, you can play a little bit of outfield and he's a pitcher.

It's not like that. He's an elite at both. And it's so impossible to comprehend how he does it. The book really gives people a look at like what kind of person he is to be able to achieve that and what he had to do, you know, growing up in Japan to get there. And I think one of the most interesting parts is about how he went from Japan to the Angels. It's a really great story and I feel lucky that he basically showed up on my doorstep.

I was already covering the Angels to give me the story to write. How much did you have access to him or did you talk to him about the book? I interviewed him, you know, hundreds of times during my daily coverage of the Angels and a lot of that is the content from him for the book.

And then, you know, I talked to a lot of other people around him to kind of fill in the gaps. On a day to day basis when he's not on the mound, what's his personality like? He's a pretty fun loving guy. I mean, you really see the way he hangs out with his teammates in the clubhouse and you can even see it on the field the way he interacts with even players on other teams. He's just having a really good time being Shoei Ohtani and playing baseball. He's got a great sense of humor. One of my favorite scenes was he was in a little bit of a hitting slump last year and so he was doing CPR on his back in the dugout.

And that's just kind of a classic, you know, stress breaker sort of thing that he does. And, you know, he just really tries to have a good time as much as possible. How much does he communicate with his team or even with you reporters in English? Well, he doesn't really talk to reporters in English, but he can communicate pretty well, I think, with just about everybody in English. He's been in the U.S. long enough now and I've had sort of some brief casual conversations with him just in the clubhouse, you know, passing by in English. So I know that he understands, but I think a lot of guys still prefer to use the interpreter when they're doing formal interviews just because you don't want to be misquoted or misunderstand a question. And, you know, that's perfectly understandable.

You can speak the language when you're just chit-chatting or talking to your teammates, but when you're going to be quoted, you want to make sure you have an interpreter. Are you ever still surprised by the reaction to him, the way that people are so excited to see him and to watch him play? Yeah, I mean, people really do. It's like appointment viewing, you know. It became kind of a popular thing on my Twitter feed as I took a little angel's schedule and I circled all the days that he's pitching. And just from sort of counting in advance, you know, for a month or six weeks in advance, and people are always asking me for it. Like, where's the Otani calendar?

I want to go plan this trip to St. Louis and I want to know which day he's going to pitch. And that's just something that you don't hear with other players. It's a big deal. So I guess then when he has a start pushback because of the cracked fingernail that throws everybody off. Oh yeah, people get very upset if they sort of plan trips around, you know, Otani's going to pitch this certain game and then something changes or there's a rainout or something and it changes the schedule. And whenever I do the schedule, I'd be sure to put a little asterisk like, don't blame me if it changes, but this is what it is right now.

One more question. I wouldn't expect that he would be tipping his hands at all, but as best you can tell, how does he like playing for the Angels and being in LA? I think he loves everything about playing for the Angels except the fact that they haven't won. And I think if his perfect scenario would be that the Angels would be a better team and he would just stay there because he's very comfortable with the people, he's comfortable with his teammates. You know, he has kind of a different schedule that other players don't have in terms of the way he pitches and the way he's using the lineup and it all kind of works together seamlessly, even the way he deals with the media. It's all, it's very different and he knows how it all works.

It's comfortable. So I think his best case would be to stay, but he also really wants to win. And so the Angels really need to show him that they can win. And I think making the playoffs this year would be a very important step towards doing that. If they don't make the playoffs, but at least show some encouraging signs and get close, I think they still might have a chance to re-sign him. But if, you know, if the second half goes terribly and they're not even in it, then I think that that probably would be the end of his time and hour. Jeff Fletcher is with us from San Diego now covering the Angels for SoCal News Group.

It's after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. The Angels have not been to the playoffs since 2014. I don't know how long you've covered the team, but that's way too long to not see Mike Trout on the October stage.

And considering the star power of Otani, of course we'd all love to see him playing in October. Thinking about this last almost decade now, what's been the biggest hindrance to them being able to break through and get back to that playoff? Well, my first year covering the team was 2013, so I've been there through this whole nightmare.

And it's very simple. Their farm system has been really bad. It was really bad for a lot of different reasons. It started to kind of fall apart around 2009, 2010, basically right after they drafted Mike Trout. And then they had a really terrible farm system at the same time as Mike Trout became this generational superstar. So he's no longer a guy that you can just trade away to rebuild your farm system like you would with like Christian Yelich or Mookie Betts or Paul Goldsmith or these other kind of guys that get traded when their teams are out of it.

You really can't take a guy who's going to the Hall of Fame and do that. And if your farm system is also no good, then you can't really acquire players to build around them. So that sort of stuck them in this middle ground where they just needed to rely on free agents to fill in the gaps. And that doesn't work very well because free agents are usually old and on the way down.

So unless you really get lucky and hit on them, like, say, the 2007 Giants did of the 2021 Giants, it's going to be really tough. And that's basically what their problem has been. There are some signs that the farm system has gotten better lately. And they've got, you know, shortstop Zach Neto, catcher Logan Olapi. These guys look like they're going to be pretty good. Patrick Sandoval, we mentioned Reid Detmers. There's some hope, but they still have to put some more pieces together to really have a consistent core. And that's going to be even more important if they want to keep Otani because if he's going to be eating up $50 million of the payroll, you need a lot of really good players making $800,000 to have a good team.

I know it's not as long as what the Seattle Mariners and their fan base suffered through, but it does feel like it stretched on far too long now. Really good insight from Jeff Fletcher. You can find him on Twitter at Jeff Fletcher OCR.

Covers the Angels for SoCal News Group and the book Showtime, the inside story of Shohei Otani and the greatest baseball season ever played. Sounds really intriguing. Jeff, thank you so much for a couple of minutes. I appreciate it.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-05 08:55:26 / 2023-07-05 09:03:18 / 8

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