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AKLAND, Calif. — A new team. A couple of new positions. A different spot in the batting order.

Welcome to Zack Cozart’s first week with the Los Angeles Angels.

“A little different,” Cozart said.

If all the upheaval is bothering the veteran infielder, it’s hard to tell.

Cozart had two hits and two RBI, Mike Trout also drove in two runs and the Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 8-3 on Saturday.

Los Angeles finished with 12 hits. Albert Pujols had two hits and two RBI, and No. 9 batter Rene Rivera had two hits and scored two runs.

Cozart, who signed a $38 million, three-year deal with Los Angeles in free agency, helped the Angels get off to a fast start. He tripled and scored on Trout’s double in the first. He also hit a two-run double in a three-run sixth as Los Angeles jumped out a 7-0 lead.

Cozart played shortstop during his first seven seasons with Cincinnati. But he started at second on opening day and played third and second in Los Angeles’ second game before starting at second again on Saturday after Ian Kinsler went on the disabled list with a groin injury.

Cozart is batting .357 (5 for 14) with four extra-base hits with his new team.

“It says a lot for Zack, it says a lot for his ability and it says a lot for his talent,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He made a great transition to third base and at second base he’s making a seamless transition.”

Cozart turned a double play in the bottom of the fourth.

“Probably the hardest thing about second is the double play,” Cozart said. “You’re blind making that throw when you first catch it.”

Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker (1-0) gave up three runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked four while improving to 5-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his last seven starts against Oakland.

Shoemaker got two quick outs in the sixth on three pitches. Then he walked Jed Lowrie on four pitches, the first of five straight batters to reach in a three-run inning.

“Being honest, that’s atrocious,” Shoemaker said. “I’ve got to find a way to re-focus in, bear down. I thought I was doing that, I just missed the zone.”

A’s starter Daniel Mengden (0-1) was charged with six runs, five earned, and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He also threw two wild pitches.

“I thought he threw the ball well,” A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell said. “His command was there. There were some mishaps behind the plate that were my fault. It’s on me that the game was out of reach more than it should have. He showed a lot of poise on the mound.”

Oakland stranded nine runners, including five in scoring position.


Scioscia moved past former A’s and Angels manager Dick Williams for 21st all-time with his 1,572nd win. … The A’s acquired RHP Josh Lucas from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for RHP Casey Meisner. The A’s optioned Lucas to Triple-A Nashville. … Angels RHP Luke Bard pitched a scoreless ninth in his major league debut.

“There’s not a ton to go on. Our reports from Japan are that he could be upwards of 100 mph, with a good split and he knows what he’s doing. We’ll get a first-hand look at it tomorrow, but usually you have a better idea going to the plate what you’re going to see. In this case, maybe not so much.” — A’s manager Bob Melvin on facing two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani on Sunday.


The A’s honored civil rights activist and labor leader Cesar Chavez on what would have been his 91st birthday, a state holiday in California. About 200 of his relatives attended the game.


Angels: Kinsler was placed on the DL with a groin sprain. INF Nolan Fontana was promoted from the minors.

Athletics: OF Matt Joyce (ankle soreness) was in Saturday’s lineup as the DH.


Ohtani makes his major league pitching debut in Sunday’s series finale. He’ll be opposed by RHP Daniel Gossett.

Wholesale China Baseball Baltimore Orioles Jerseys

In the end, Alex Cobb got the contract everyone expected. He just had to wait a little longer than he would have liked. At the start of free agency, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs predicted Cobb would get a four-year, $60 million deal. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors predicted four years and $48 million. Sources report Cobb’s deal with the Baltimore Orioles will be four years at something close to $60 million.

What’s interesting here is that Cobb cashed in on a long-term deal while Lance Lynn and Mike Moustakas, the two other prominent late signings, had to settle for one-year deals. Moustakas’ situation is easier to understand given the situation at third base across the majors, but on the surface, there isn’t much difference between Lynn and Cobb. Both are the same age (Cobb is a few months younger), both had solid results in 2017 coming off Tommy John surgery, and both project to similar WAR for 2018 — 2.1 for Lynn via ZiPS, 2.5 for Cobb.

Yet Cobb gets $60 million and Lynn signed with the Twins for one year at $12 million (which at least allows him to re-enter free agency next season without being attached to draft-pick compensation). There are some underlying differences between them. While Lynn posted a 3.43 ERA with the Cardinals, his peripherals weren’t as good, reflected by his 4.82 FIP. Cobb, meanwhile, has had proven success in the American League East with the Rays, so it’s certainly understandable why he would be a more attractive choice for the Orioles.

How much will he help? Obviously, the Orioles needed rotation help. Before Cobb, the Orioles’ rotation depth chart listed Chris Tillman, coming off a 7.84 ERA, and Gabriel Ynoa, who had a 5.25 ERA at Triple-A. Cobb probably displaces Ynoa and completes a five-man group that also includes Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner.

That still doesn’t project as a top rotation. Here are the updated rotation WAR projections from FanGraphs for the AL East:

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Yankees: 16.5

Red Sox: 15.8

Rays: 14.7

Blue Jays: 13.5

Orioles: 9.3

That doesn’t even factor in that Bundy, Cobb and Tillman all have had serious health issues in the not-too-recent past. Why does the Orioles’ rotation project so poorly? Strikeouts. There were 149 pitchers last season who threw at least 90 innings. Here’s where Baltimore’s five starters ranked in strikeout rate:

Cashner: 148th

Tillman: 142nd

Cobb: 118th

Bundy: 53rd

Gausman: 51st

Now, strikeouts aren’t everything. But they’re almost everything. It’s very difficult to do what Cashner did last year with the Rangers, posting a 3.40 ERA while averaging just 4.6 K’s per nine innings. You can do it with good defense behind you, a high ground ball rate and a little luck, but those three aspects rarely line up in consecutive seasons.

Of course, Cashner could up his strikeout rate. Cobb could rediscover his splitter/changeup, a pitch that wasn’t effective for him last year but was used with great success when he had a 2.82 ERA over 2013 and 2014. Tillman could be healthy. Bundy and Gausman may not have reached their full potential just yet.

So the rotation may not be a disaster and could even surprise. Still, you wouldn’t predict this group to outperform the Yankees’ rotation. Which puts a lot of pressure on the offense. Do you see the Orioles outscoring the Yankees? If you go position by position, you’d give the Orioles the advantage only at second base with Jonathan Schoop over Neil Walker. You can dream on Chris Davis having a bigger year, but he’s now had two straight seasons of declining production and was terrible in 2017. Maybe Tim Beckham is better than Brandon Drury. Even shortstop is more of a toss-up than you may think. Can you tell Manny Machado from Didi Gregorius from their 2017 numbers?

Player A: .259/.310/.471

Player B: .287/.318/.478

The Orioles did a good thing in signing Cobb to fill a weakness. On paper, however, they still look far short of the Yankees or Red Sox. They’ve surprised us before.