A trade that general manager Billy Eppler consummated shortly after midnight Monday changed the composition of the Angels’ starting rotation.
In is Chris Stratton, a 28-year-old right-hander acquired from the San Francisco Giants for left-handed relief prospect Williams Jerez. Stratton, who is out of minor league options, will start the fifth game of the season Monday in Seattle.
Out is 22-year-old right-hander Jaime Barria, who was scratched from Tuesday night’s scheduled Freeway Series exhibition start against the Dodgers and optioned to triple-A Salt Lake two hours before the game.
Barria, who went 10-9 with a 3.41 earned-run average in 26 starts as a rookie last season, has minor league options, meaning the Angels can move him up and down without exposing him to waiver claims.
“It was very tough to break the news to Barria,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s a great kid, a great competitor. I’m pretty confident we’ll see him at some point this season.”
Stratton, who will follow Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Felix Pena and Tyler Skaggs in the rotation, spent the last three seasons shuttling between triple-A and the majors. A first-round pick in 2012, Stratton has a 15-14 record and 4.63 ERA in 213 2/3 innings over 48 games, 36 of them starts.
“The evaluations we were given indicated that his true talent level was better than what some of the more traditional statistics might show,” Eppler said. “Part of our duty is to be prepared to manage a 162-game season, and no matter what happens early on in the season, we have to be prepared to play 162 games.”
The rotation was devastated by injuries last season, with seven starters — Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, Skaggs, JC Ramirez, Nick Tropeano and Alex Meyer — spending significant time on the disabled list.
“He brings pitching depth, for sure,” Ausmus said of Stratton. “He’s a starting pitcher with major league experience. You’re going to need at least a dozen starting pitchers over the course of the season, and he’ll help us.”
Stratton put together some dominant stretches with the Giants, including one from last Aug. 21 to Sept. 14 in which he allowed eight earned runs over 34 1/3 innings, struck out 25 and held opponents to a .168 average.
He ended that run with a two-hit shutout of eventual wild-card winner Colorado and ended up leading the Giants with 10 wins.
Stratton’s fastball averages 91.2 mph, according to Fangraphs, but his best pitch is a high-spin-rate curve that averages 77.6 mph. He also throws a slider (83.6 mph) and a changeup (84.1 mph).
“We have positive scouting reports on him,” Eppler said. “He has a good fastball and good pitch characteristics with his secondary pitches.”
The bullpen began to take shape after the Angels released veteran left-hander Dan Jennings, who had a 9.45 ERA in 6 2/3 innings over eight spring games. The team likely will open the season with eight right-handed relievers — closer Cody Allen, Ty Buttrey, Justin Anderson, Hansel Robles, Cam Bedrosian, Luke Bard, Luis Garcia and Noe Ramirez.
“We have to go with the seven or eight best relievers who will help us win games,” Ausmus said. “When we need a right-hander to get a left-hander out, we’ll have one we can lean on. I’ve been on teams that didn’t have lefties in the bullpen before, so it’s certainly not something that’s unheard of.”
Jerez, 26, acquired with Buttrey from Boston for second baseman Ian Kinsler last July, allowed two earned runs and 1.77 walks plus hits per inning pitched in 7 1/3 innings this spring. He was slated to start the season at Salt Lake.