Is the Angels’ Jose Suarez tipping his pitches? If so, he’s making changes
The proliferation of advanced technology and readily available videos in the major leagues has helped Angels rookie Jose Suarez hone in on a potential problem.
His Angels coaches noticed after a June 20 start in Toronto that Suarez was changing his glove position depending on which pitch he was preparing to throw. The problem persisted over his next six starts.
No one knows for sure if opposing hitters have noticed Suarez tipping pitches, but Suarez, manager Brad Ausmus and Angels pitching coaches finally worked on a solution during Suarez’s bullpen session at Fenway Park on Saturday. The 21-year-old hopes he’ll be able to take the fixes into his start Monday at Angel Stadium.
“I didn’t realize my glove was a problem,” Suarez said in Spanish. “But up here, there are cameras everywhere. People notice things easily.
“You’re so focused in-game, on the batter, or on the runner, you lose track of your mechanics. I take a breath, try to go back to where I’m comfortable, and I help myself. But a lot of times you focus too much on the batters, the runner.”
Suarez has assembled a 6.22 earned-run average in 10 starts. He has given up 14 home runs in his 46 1/3 innings. He hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that followed him to the major leagues.
He coasted through the system a year ago, jumping from high-Class A to triple-A within the first two months of the season. He struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings, an impressive rate for a 20-year-old facing advanced hitters for the first time.
Suarez performed well enough to earn a victory in his June 2 debut, giving up three runs and five hits over 5 2/3 innings in Seattle. But he struggled to find footing in the major leagues. He shuttled back and forth from triple-A Salt Lake over the next two months. With the Angels, he rarely made it through five innings.
He bailed himself out of trouble with his vaunted changeup, but command of the pitch began to elude him. He surrendered 10 runs in his last two starts. Opponents hit him at a .350 clip over 9 1/3 innings and only struck out three times.
Diversifying his usage of his low-90s fastball might help, Ausmus said.
“You have to locate it,” he said of the fastball. “Sometimes you’ve got to locate it in. If you’re not pitching in at all, you’re just going away and using your changeup away, it makes a very comfortable at-bat for the hitter.”
Simply letting his pitches do the work themselves might solve Suarez’s command issues, too. He has at times tried too hard to place pitches in the zone, not trusting them to move the direction he wants them to.
“The goal is throw the pitch well,” Suarez said. “If they hit it, they hit it.”
Catcher injured again
Kevan Smith was placed on the injured list Sunday, the third time the catcher has been hurt this season. Back spasms began wracking the 31-year-old’s body last week. They subsided but flared up again during this four-game series in Boston.
Ausmus said he thinks Smith should need only the required 10 days to recover.
The Angels will turn to reserve Anthony Bemboom, whom they acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays last month. He was a 22nd-round pick of the Angels in 2012, selected out of Creighton University. He made it to triple-A with the Angels before the Colorado Rockies took him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in December 2016.
He played just 115 triple-A games over the two seasons that followed. The Rays signed him as a minor league free agent in November, gave him his first taste of the major leagues in May and placed him on the 60-day injured list because of a left knee sprain.
Bemboom, 29, has posted gaudy numbers in the offense-happy Pacific Coast League, batting .410 with a 1.157 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 11 games for Salt Lake. He hit .240 with 65 doubles, 13 triples and 34 home runs over 497 minor league games.
Smith, whom the Angels retained instead of Dustin Garneau because he has three years of control remaining on his contract, has missed 34 games because of injury this season. He sustained a concussion in May and a left hand metacarpal sprain in June.
Noe Ramirez will make one more rehab appearance Monday before being reinstated from the injured list during the Angels’ upcoming homestand. He threw one scoreless inning Saturday for Class-A Inland Empire. Ramirez will have to serve his three-game suspension upon his return. The Angels will have to play with only 24 men on the roster. … The Angels will host the Pittsburgh Pirates for three games beginning Monday. The Pirates have not visited Anaheim since June 2013. Mike Trout was just 21 then, but he was on the verge of leading the American League in walks (110) for the first time in his career. Trout entered Sunday tied with Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins for most walks (88) in the major leagues this season.
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