Jose Suarez displayed such an advanced feel for pitching and knack for missing bats that he jumped from Class-A Inland Empire to double-A Mobile to triple-A Salt Lake within the first two months of the 2018 season as a 20-year-old.
The left-hander from Venezuela, who is the Angels’ No. 2 pitching prospect, will take an even bigger leap Sunday when he makes his major league debut against the Seattle Mariners in T-Mobile Park.
“He had one rough outing in triple-A, but other than that he’s been outstanding,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It’s no secret we’ve always liked the guy.”
A rotation spot opened when Ausmus pushed struggling right-hander Trevor Cahill back from Sunday to Monday’s makeup game in Chicago against the Cubs.
Suarez went 3-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 26 starts across three levels last season, striking out 142 and walking 44 in 117 innings.
After missing most of his first big-league camp this spring because of a shoulder issue, Suarez went 2-0 with a 3.91 ERA in five games for Salt Lake, striking out 20 and walking 11 in 23 innings. The numbers were even better before he allowed six earned runs and seven hits Tuesday against Tacoma.
Though not physically imposing at 5 feet 10, Suarez has a fastball that averages 92 mph and touches 95 with late arm-side movement. His best pitch is an 81-mph changeup he throws with deception and sinking action. His mid-70s curveball is an above-average swing-and-miss pitch when he lands it, and his slider is improving.
“Oh man, he’s got some good stuff — he can really pitch for how young he is,” said backup catcher Dustin Garneau, who caught Suarez at Salt Lake before joining the Angels last week. “He’s kind of like [Griffin] Canning. He’s very mature for his age.
“His size is deceiving. I think it works to his advantage because you don’t expect the ball to come out of his hand the way it does, and it gets on guys. The changeup is his biggest weapon. It plays to righties and lefties, and he has a really good feel for it. When he’s on, he can definitely cruise through some lineups.”
Ausmus raves about the versatility of utility man David Fletcher, who has been proficient defensively at four positions — shortstop, second base, third base and left field — and entered Friday with a .314 average, four homers, 21 RBIs, 28 runs and more walks (16) than strikeouts (13).
“He does everything well,” Ausmus said.
Fletcher’s talents go well beyond the baseball field, though. He recently solved a Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes during a television interview on the Angels bench.
“I learned it a couple of years ago,” said Fletcher, who celebrated his 25th birthday Friday and went one for four. “I don’t know if it’s a skill that comes in handy, but it’s fun to do when I’m bored sometimes. I do it with my wife. We race each other.”
What’s the secret to solving the multi-colored three-dimensional puzzle?
“A lot of memorizing,” Fletcher said. “There are seven or eight different algorithms. You just have to know when to do each one, and that’s it. At first, it seemed kind of hard, but when you memorize those algorithms and know when to use each one, you’ve got it.”