Joe Maddon is pleased to be returning to the Angels organization as the team’s new manager, the veteran skipper tells ESPN.com’s Alden Gonzalez. Rumors about Maddon taking over the managerial post swirled for much of last season, and the Angels ended up being the only team Maddon officially interviewed with, after a dinner with owner Arte Moreno, team president John Carpino and GM Billy Eppler. “I just thought it would’ve been disingenuous to accept interviews with anyone else if I truly wanted to be here. And then, after it was all set and done, it couldn’t have been more obvious it was the right thing to do for me,” Maddon said.
Maddon also touched on his departure from Chicago, telling Gonzalez that he decided during the 2019 season that he was ready to move on from the team. There was heavy speculation that the Cubs were planning a managerial change when no extension talks were held with Maddon prior to his last year under contract, and Maddon said some “philosophical differences” emerged following what was perceived as a disappointing 2018 season. The front office “wanted to control more of what was occurring in just about everything,” Maddon said, as “when I started there — ’15, ’16, ’17 — it was pretty much my methods. And then all of a sudden, after ’18 going into ’19, they wanted to change everything.”
Interestingly, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein provided something of a counterpoint to Maddon’s statement, telling The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma that he didn’t feel any “philosophical differences” existed with Maddon. Epstein didn’t entirely deny that the front office played a larger role in 2019, as while he didn’t see the extra attention as overly controlling, he felt he had to address what he saw as a “growing organizational complacency” in the clubhouse. “I think his [Maddon’s] approach was more that things will work themselves out. These are great players, let them play and these things will work out,” Epstein said. “From my perspective, there was a little bit more cause for concern. It wasn’t an everyday thing that I would try to step in and offer feedback, help and remind about expectations.”
Some more out of Anaheim…
- Right-hander Justin Anderson will be out for four-to-six weeks and will begin the season on the injured list, Maddon told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger and other reporters. Anderson suffered a Grade 2 strain in his left oblique while playing catch on Tuesday. The 27-year-old is entering his third season in Los Angeles and looking to improve on an injury-hampered 2019 that saw Anderson post a 5.55 ERA over 47 relief innings, while battling a trapezoid issue.
- Maddon also provided an update (to the Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya and other reporters) on right-hander Felix Pena, who is expected to be ready for Opening Day. Pena tore his right ACL last August and had a projected recovery time of six-to-nine months, though it seems as if Pena is progressing well and won’t require the long end of that projection. Pena has a 4.38 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 3.00 K/BB rate over 189 innings since the Angels acquired him in a deal with the Cubs during the 2017-18 offseason, with Pena starting 24 of his 41 games as a semi-regular rotation fill-in for the Halos’ many pitching injuries. Most notably, Pena tossed the final seven innings of the Angels’ combined no-hitter on July 12, entering the game as the bulk pitcher after opener Taylor Cole.
- Angels pitching prospect Jose Soriano will miss the entire 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo reports (Twitter link). At the end of last season, MLB Pipeline ranked the right-hander as the ninth-best minor leaguer in the Angels’ farm system, praising Soriano’s “electric fastball” that sits in the 97-98mph range and a breaking ball that “trends towards being a plus pitch.” The 21-year-old Soriano is coming off a solid season spent mostly at A-ball Burlington, posting a 2.55 ERA, 9.7 K/9, and 1.75 K/BB rate over 77 2/3 innings (starting 15 of 17 games).