Jason Grilli awoke at 4 a.m. He had slept two hours.
He was in Pittsburgh. The Angels were in Kansas City. They needed him for a day game, so he caught a cab at 5 a.m., took a 7 a.m. flight through Chicago, and got to the ballpark here at about noon.
He barely had enough time to try on his latest cap, but he knows the drill. The Angels are his 10th organization.
“What do they say, collect them all?” Grilli said. “I’ve got a third of the league out of the way.”
First pitch was at 1:10 p.m. By the time Grilli threw his first pitch, it was half past seven, and the Angels and Kansas City Royals had endured a four-hour rain delay. The Angels gathered in the clubhouse to relax, eat, play cards, and watch some baseball and some World Cup. Grilli used some of that time to meet all of his new teammates, but he could hardly stay awake.
“I got to catch up on a couple of winks,” he said.
The Angels got what they hope were glimpses of a brighter pitching future in Saturday’s 6-2 victory over the Royals.
Hector Santiago pitched four shutout innings, and he was three outs from becoming eligible for his first victory of the season when the rains came.
Santiago said it might look as if he’s been cursed: “It seems like everything that can have an effect on me getting a win is happening.”
When the Angels banished him to the minor leagues last month, he was 0-6 with a 5.19 earned-run average. In three starts since his return, he is 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA.
In his first start back, he pitched six shutout innings, but his victory disappeared in a blown save. On Saturday his victory disappeared when the heavens opened.
Still, his solid performance gives the Angels something to think about when they decide whether to drop Santiago or Matt Shoemaker from the starting rotation when Tyler Skaggs is expected to return next week.
“Too many times, you’re trying to fill three spots with two guys,” said Manager Mike Scioscia. “We’ve got three guys to fill two spots.”
The Angels obtained Grilli from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday for Ernesto Frieri, one deposed closer swapped for another. Grilli pitched a perfect eighth inning Saturday, with Joe Smith working the ninth.
“Do I want to throw the ninth? Yeah,” Smith said. “If it’s better for the team for me not to throw the ninth, I have no problem.”
Grilli is 37. In his only full season as a closer, he was an All-Star last year, with 33 saves for the Pirates. He spoke fondly of that club, and of the city that embraced its first postseason team in 21 years. He spoke less fondly when asked for his reaction to Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington’s comment that Grilli had not recovered his form after an oblique injury this season.
“Everybody’s got their opinion,” Grilli said.
He said he had made a minor mechanical adjustment, comparing his proper delivery with an FM radio station tuned to 95.7.
“I was on 95.9,” he said.
He said he has not lost faith or confidence. The Angels are not promising to make him their closer, but he plans to win the job anyway.
“I have a feeling I’ll get a chance to pitch the ninth again,” he said. “Right now, I’m more concerned about getting some sleep.”