Angels rookie Patrick Sandoval was such an unknown before the season, and so far off the depth chart, the Angels didn’t invite him to major league camp. He did not participate in the team’s preseason photo day. As a result, the image that accompanied Sandoval’s introduction at Angel Stadium on Wednesday was a still photo of him in a red spring training jersey. It stood in stark contrast to the images of others in the starting lineup, all of whom recorded short videos in their home whites in late February.
It also belied how far Sandoval, 22, has come since being denied a few innings of work in split-squad games in spring training. He made four starts in double A before being promoted to triple A in May. Fifteen starts after that, Sandoval was called up to the major leagues this month.
Sandoval is no longer much of a mystery to the Angels. He is a left-hander brimming with potential. He showed that by holding the Texas Rangers to one hit over five innings in the Angels’ 3-0 loss to their American League West rival, one week after he was tagged for four runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings by the same team.
“It felt great,” Sandoval said. “It felt like I had everything whenever I wanted it.”
Sandoval entered the game with a gaudy 6.75 ERA, but he had impressed manager Brad Ausmus, who knew little about his new pitcher before his Aug. 5 debut, with his composure. He allowed four runs in two of his last four starts, but never more than that.
In his fifth start, Sandoval turned in his best outing yet. He walked three, but stranded all of the runners. The hardest-hit ball he allowed was a double rifled down the first-base line by Willie Calhoun. When he departed after the fifth inning of a scoreless game, he had thrown 52 of 84 pitches for strikes.
Sandoval kept the Rangers off-balance with a fastball that reached a high of 96 mph and a nearly untouchable changeup. The pitch drew 10 swings-and-misses and received one strike call. Only one of his 26 offspeed offerings was put in play, and it was for a flyout in the fourth inning after he issued a leadoff walk.
But it was his slider and curveball, which accounted for 16 of his pitches, that helped most. He drew five whiffs on the breaking pitches. A move to the center of the rubber — he had pitched from the third-base side of the mound since he was a teenage growing up in Mission Viejo — made the difference.
“We were just thinking it would make pitching a little bit easier to throw and a little bit more deceptive,” Sandoval said.
The Angels did not reward Sandoval’s strong outing with offense, so his first major league victory continues to elude him.
Ausmus said there was no thought to allow Sandoval to remain in the game any longer because of pitch-count restrictions the Angels are adhering to in the final weeks of the season. Additionally, Sandoval was about to face the Rangers’ order a third time. Ausmus does not usually allow young pitchers to face batters three times because hitters tend to have more success the more often they face an opponent.
“We felt he had done his job,” he said. “We hoped to score some runs in the bottom of the fifth and get him his first win, but it wasn’t to be.”
Kole Calhoun grounded out with the bases loaded and one out to end the team’s best scoring threat in the first inning. Brian Goodwin nearly hit a third-inning home run off Rangers primary pitcher Ariel Jurado, who allowed only two hits in six scoreless innings, but Delino DeShields Jr. reached over the center-field wall to rob Goodwin of what would have been his 14th homer.
While Jurado retired eight of the final 11 batters he faced, Miguel Del Pozo was charged a run in the sixth when Keynan Middleton allowed an RBI single in his first MLB game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Fellow reliever Cam Bedrosian gave up a two-run double in the eighth to put the game out of reach for the Angels, who had just three hits.
Trout playing through pain
A pesky bruise on the bottom of Mike Trout’s right foot prompted the Angels to give their star center fielder a night off Wednesday. Trout had been dealing with the minor injury “off and on for the last few weeks,” Ausmus said. The Angels hope two straight days of rest will help.
“It’s been the same for about two or three weeks, probably,” said Trout, who could not pinpoint when the injury occurred. “We were looking at these off days anyway and they just said we’ll give you two days off. I said all right. I’ll be good to go Friday.”
Throughout his eighth full season in the major leagues, Trout has put together a veritable case to win his third MVP award. Entering Wednesday, his 1.087 on-base-plus-slugging percentage led the American League by more than 100 percentage points; his 43 homers outpaced everyone in baseball; and his 8.4 wins above replacement topped Fangraphs’ charts. He reached 100 RBIs.
Infielder Tommy La Stella, on the injured list because of a leg fracture sustained July 2, could return to the field as soon as the Angels begin their penultimate homestand of the season Sept. 9. In the last week, he has moved from running on an antigravity treadmill to jogging unassisted. He has been hitting in the cage and taking groundballs. With the minor league season ending next week, it is likely La Stella will play in simulated games at Angel Stadium. … Angels prospect Jose Soriano, Parker Joe Robinson, Hector Yan and Chad Sykes threw a combined no-hitter in 10 innings for the low-A Burlington Bees on Tuesday night. Soriano is one of the Angels’ most promising young prospects. The right-hander from the Dominican Republic is 20 years old and already wields a mid-90s fastball. … Top prospect Jo Adell will have some company when the Arizona Fall League commences next month. Outfielder Brandon Marsh, second baseman Jahmai Jones, catcher Franklin Torres and right-handed pitchers Aaron Hernandez, Nathan Bates, Isaac Mattson and Austin Warren will join him on the Mesa Solar Sox. Jones was a Fall League all-star last season.