Washington's Rally Cry: 'Step Up After Stephenson Injury'

Angels adjust tactics amid bullpen challenges.

by Nouman Rasool
Washington's Rally Cry: 'Step Up After Stephenson Injury'
© Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels' 2024 MLB season has taken a major hit as Robert Stephenson, the team's key off-season acquisition, is sidelined for the rest of the year due to an elbow injury. The Angels, who invested $33 million in a three-year contract for the veteran reliever, are now facing a significant challenge in their bullpen.

The injury occurred after a narrow 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, leaving fans and the team disheartened. Stephenson, 31, is slated for elbow surgery later this month, effectively ending his 2024 campaign. Although specific details of the surgery have yet to be disclosed, the team is hopeful for his return at the beginning of the 2025 season.

Additionally, Stephenson's contract includes an option for an extra year, should an elbow injury sideline him for 130 consecutive days. In response to the setback, Angels manager Ron Washington expressed both disappointment and resolve.

"It’s very disappointing," Washington said. "It’s certainly a huge void in our bullpen. But I think our guys are learning to pick up each other, and that’s what we need. When one person goes down, another has to step up.

But it’s a big void."

Strategic Pitching Shift

With the bullpen already under strain from previous seasons' inconsistencies, Washington is now devising strategies to manage without one of his key pitchers. He is placing increased expectations on his starting pitchers to extend their outings, aiming for them to consistently reach the sixth or seventh inning.

This strategy is intended to alleviate some of the pressure on the relievers. “The relievers have fared very well, but we can’t keep this up,” Washington elaborated. “We’re trying to put some pressure on our starting pitchers to go out there, pound the strike zone, and get to the sixth or seventh inning”.

As the Angels stand with a record of 9-10 and third place in the AL West, the team's resilience is being tested. The season still holds much potential, and the management’s ability to navigate this adversity will be crucial as they pursue their postseason ambitions.

Washington’s rallying cry underscores a spirit of determination: when faced with challenges, another must rise to the occasion. The Angels' response to this critical moment could very well define their season.