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Opening Day roster features surprises as Shuck optioned out

J.B. Shuck, shown here during a Cactus League contest in Arizona, was surprisingly sent down to the minors as one of the last cuts for the Angels.
J.B. Shuck, shown here during a Cactus League contest in Arizona, was surprisingly sent down to the minors as one of the last cuts for the Angels.
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Angels went with some surprising final roster moves heading into Opening Day, but none was more surprising than outfielder J.B. Shuck getting optioned to the minors.

Shuck, who finished in the top five last season in American League Rookie of the Year voting, was sent down in favor of Collin Cowgill on Saturday after the Halos’ spring finale. The 26-year-old batted .293 in 437 at-bats in 2013 after starting centerfielder Peter Bourjos went down with an injury and missed the majority of the season.

However, the emergence of Kole Calhoun last season in right field and the health of Josh Hamilton no longer an issue, Shuck found himself not being versatile enough for manager Mike Scioscia’s bench.

“That’s about as tough as it gets,” Scioscia said of cutting Shuck. “J.B. had a terrific season for us last year, had a great Spring Training. But if you look at the balance of our team and our bench, J.B. was not going to be getting many at-bats without someone going down right now”

Shuck’s misfortune turned into Cowgill’s benefit. Obtained in a trade last season from the Mets, the outfielder can play all three spots and is a right-handed bat off the bench otherwise dominated by lefties.

The other big surprise was Scioscia only going with two catchers this season, as Hank Conger will serve as the backup to Chris Iannetta. In recent years, the veteran skipper and former catcher has gone with three backstops for depth purposes.

Joining Cowgill and Conger on the bench are infielders Ian Stewart and John McDonald, as second baseman Grant Green was sent down as expected with Howie Kendrick the set starter.

The bullpen will feature Nick Maronde and Matt Shoemaker on the roster while Sean Burnett and Dane De La Rosa start the season on the disabled list. Those two will join Fernando Salas, Michael Kohn, Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen and closer Ernesto Frieri.

Shoemaker is normally a starter, but will serve as the long-man for the Halos in the early going thanks to a great Cactus League.

The rotation was formalized with Tyler Skaggs being notified of his spot after the team released veteran Joe Blanton on Friday.

Angels 25-man roster

Catchers

Chris Iannetta, Hank Conger

Infielders

Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, David Freese, Ian Stewart, John McDonald

Outfielders

Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Raul Ibanez, Collin Cowgill

Starting Pirchers

Jered Weaver, C.J, Wilson, Hector Santiago, Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs

Relief Pitchers

Ernesto Frieri, Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen, Michael Kohn, Fernando Salas, Matt Shoemaker, Nick Maronde