New Angels reliever Aaron Loup relishes new role over past few years

Aaron Loup is a fan of a rule that some left-handed pitchers detest.

When Major League baseball instituted the three-batter rule before the 2019 season, some left-handed specialists feared that it would eliminate their jobs. If a manager couldn’t use a lefty to come in and face one or two left-handed hitters, those lefties wouldn’t get roster spots.

Loup had been used just that way throughout his career, but he wanted more.

“I’ve been trying to tell guys for years that I could get right-handers out too,” said Loup, who spoke to the media on Tuesday for the first time since signing a two-year deal with the Angels last week. “But being being a left-handed sidearmer, you kind of get pigeonholed as being a lefty specialist.

“So I think that rule forced managers’ hands to kind of put me in situations that typically I wouldn’t normally be in, so it gave me a chance to showcase my abilities. It’s what I always knew I could do and just needed the chance to do it.”

Loup had faced one or two hitters in 105 of his 378 appearances prior to 2019, when the rule started. He’d pitched 322-2/3 innings in 378 games.

He didn’t get much chance to show what he could do in a different role in 2019 with the Padres, because an elbow injury cost him almost the entire season. But in 2020 and 2021, Loup posted a combined 1.43 ERA over 89 games with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets.

In those seasons, Loup faced 131 lefties and allowed a .179 average. He faced 183 righties and allowed a .205 average.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian was noncommittal about how they plan to use Loup, and Loup said he’s open to doing whatever the team needs.

What they need most, of course, is effective pitching, in whatever form that takes.

“I like what the Angels have,” Loup said. “They’ve always had a ton of offense. And I feel like they’ve always needed a little bit of pitching and hopefully I can be a part of the answer.”

One of the pitchers the Angels have added is right-hander Noah Syndergaard, who was Loup’s teammate in the minors with the Toronto Blue Jays and last season with the Mets. They also agreed to a deal with right-hander Michael Lorenzen, whose $7 million deal is still not official yet.

With a lockout expected to start at 9 p.m. PT on Wednesday, the Angels are soon going to have their roster-building on an indefinite hold.

Several of the top available starters — Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman — have already reportedly agreed with other teams. Alex Cobb, who had a bounceback season with the Angels in 2021, also reportedly agreed to a deal with the San Francisco Giants.

The top remaining starters are Marcus Stroman, Carlos Rodon and Clayton Kershaw. The Angels also could make a trade for a starter like Luis Castillo, Sean Manaea or Chris Bassitt.

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