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Angels' High-Paid Reliever Suffers Setback, Unlikely to Be Ready for Opening Day

The Angels can't seem to catch a break with their new reliever.
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The Angels' front office has taken a decidedly conservative approach to reshaping its 2024 roster without superstar Shohei Ohtani. With the exception of Aaron Hicks, general manager Perry Minasian didn't sign a position player to a major league contract since last season ended. 

Their biggest acquisition so far: right-handed reliever Robert Stephenson, who signed a three-year, $33 million deal in January

Stephenson has yet to pitch this spring while he recovers from a shoulder injury, but he has been optimistic about his chances to be ready for Opening Day. Friday, new information came out that suggests the Angels' prized free agent signing might not be available March 28 as he had hoped.

Losing Stephenson is a blow to the Halos' bullpen, but the hope is that he won't be out for a long time. The team doesn't want to rush anything with their new reliever, especially coming off a season in which he made a career-high 60 appearances at age 30. 

Stephenson split his 2022 season between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays. His performance with Tampa Bay — a 2.35 in 42 appearances — effectively reinvented Stephenson as a potential high-leverage reliever with a strong market.

Opposing batters had a .101 average against his cutter last season, a pitch that he recently added to his arsenal. 

The Angels believe he can help shore up their bullpen issues from last season, which finished with an ERA of 4.88. Stephenson instantly became one of their top arms when he signed, so the Halos will be looking to get him ready to go as soon as possible.