Jen Pawol, one of only two women umpiring in MLB-affiliated professional baseball, was behind the plate Thursday in the Tigers’ 6-1 exhibition win over Division II Florida Southern in Lakeland, Fla., earning praise from Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire and minimal abuse from either team.
The native of New York state says she doesn’t know yet where she’ll be assigned this season, but presumably she’ll work some Grapefruit League games this spring.
“I’m the luckiest woman in the world,” she said. “I get to take the field every day with the best men the world. I am so thankful for the opportunity.”
Behind Ohtani, Tyler Skaggs is sort of a question mark, but Matt Shoemaker has a few successful seasons under his belt. After a season marred by injury in 2017, the hope for the Angels is that Shoemaker can pitch like he did in 2014 and 2016 in particular, when he kept his ERA well under 4.00. But the beauty of having Ohtani in the rotation is that the Angels will not need to lean so heavily on pitchers like Skaggs or Shoemaker.
Finally, once-in-a-generation talent Mike Trout missed a large chunk of last season thanks to a torn ligament in his left thumb, and while it’s not necessarily likely that a full year of Trout would have put the Angels in the 2017 playoffs, losing him for nearly 50 games didn’t help. Trout, at only 26, is garishly talented and was worth nearly 7 WAR in his abbreviated season last year, so having him return to the lineup almost every day in 2018 only bolsters the Angels’ case for making the playoffs.
The road to October won’t necessarily be easier for the Angels this season, but thanks to the additions of Ohtani and a few veterans, they are better equipped to traverse it.