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Will Angels call up first-rounder Reid Detmers this year? ‘It’s not out of the question’

Louisville's Reid Detmers throws during Game 1 of an NCAA college baseball super regional tournament against East Carolina
Louisville’s Reid Detmers throws during Game 1 of an NCAA college baseball super regional tournament against East Carolina on June 7, 2019.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

During any other summer, the Angels’ first-round draft pick would be working out with his fellow draftees in Arizona, getting accustomed to playing professional baseball for the first time in his life.

But this isn’t any other summer. Reid Detmers, the left-handed starter the Angels selected with the 10th overall pick in the June draft, isn’t at the Angels’ spring training complex. He’s spending his days at Long Beach State and pitching every fifth day to teams composed of fellow Angels minor leaguers. He’s learning a new system, often without the typical one-on-one instruction he savored at Louisville.

And Detmers is doing it all a short distance from Angel Stadium.

The Angels, meanwhile, are attempting to turn around an 8-15 start. They will need to overcome an uneven performance from their starting rotation to do so. Dylan Bundy (1.57 ERA) and Patrick Sandoval (3.94 ERA) were the only pitchers in the rotation with sub-4.50 earned-run averages following Griffin Canning’s 4 2/3-inning, three-run performance Monday, a 7-6 win against San Francisco on a walk-off home run by Tommy La Stella.

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Could Detmers be part of the solution?

“It’s not out of the question that he may be able to help us this year,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Detmers, who is stretched out to throw five innings in his outings at the moment, believes he can lend a hand as soon as the Angels call him.

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“I think I’m mentally ready and getting physically ready,” Detmers said. “Obviously, I’ve only thrown five innings so far here. But I think my arm’s in good enough shape right now to have success in the big leagues.”

Beyond feeling strong on the mound, the key to Detmers’ confidence is an improved slider. He began tinkering with the pitch upon arrival at the Angels’ alternate facility. He consulted teammates and coaches and eventually switched to a knuckle grip. The slider has transformed from a “slurve” into a sharper breaking pitch. The velocity has increased too, bumping mid-80s.

The previous iteration of Detmers’ slider sat in the upper 70s, similar to a hard curveball.

“It’s something that I’m very proud of at this time,” Detmers said. “And I keep trying to improve it.”

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The intrasquad format isn’t typically conducive to making great strides in player development. Coaches can address player deficiencies but players can’t put the lessons into practice against a rival in a standard nine-inning game.

“The most important part of their development is kind of watered down for them right now,” Maddon said.

That isn’t the case for Detmers. The 21-year-old didn’t encounter much patience from the hitters he faced during three years at Louisville. His new teammates are generally more disciplined at the plate, with “a lot better eyes.” The lessons are serving him well.

“They know what they’re doing, they know what they’re looking for,” Detmers said. “And if you make a mistake, they’re gonna jump on it. So you gotta be very good on the mound and have a game plan.”

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Detmers, 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds, was one of the most polished pitchers available in the draft this summer. He had a 1.23 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 22 innings when the COVID-19 pandemic halted his junior season.

Angels manager Joe Maddon said shortstop David Fletcher’s play on a ground ball by Mookie Betts on Saturday night was as good as he’s ever seen.

Detmers’ arsenal already included an impressive curveball and changeup upon his arrival in Southern California last month. His fastball sat in the low 90s but the pitch had always played up.

“The fastball just gets by people,” said Roger Williams, Detmers’ pitching coach at Louisville. “They don’t seem to square him up a whole lot. He commands the fastball so well — in, out, up, down.”

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Maddon doesn’t mind that Detmers’ fastball lacks the zip of many other top pitching prospects’.

“I’m not into that,” Maddon said. “I like a guy that can pitch. Dylan Bundy’s demonstrating to you right now what pitchability looks like. I actually think you’re gonna see a trend coming back to pitchers over just rock-throwers, guys that are just trying to throw it as hard as they possibly can.

“So a guy like Detmers is really interesting to me moving forward. Guys that know what they’re doing out there ... I think could sustain a longer career.”

Detmers is advanced enough to merit consideration for a call-up.

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“We understand that this guy can spin the ball,” pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. “He has a great changeup, and has very good fastball command. I think goal No. 1 is to continue his development. Goal No. 2 would be if we’re in a situation where we need some help, we wouldn’t be afraid to go get him.”

Three takeaways on the Angels vs. Giants

  • Before Tommy La Stella hit a walk-off homer to snap the Angels’ four-game losing streak, he combined with David Fletcher (walk), Anthony Rendon (double) and Albert Pujols (double) to spot the Angels a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning. The lead was gone quickly.

  • Jo Adell hauled in a long fly ball hit by Mike Yastrzemski in the first inning, his back slamming into the right-field wall to rob an extra-base hit. Mike Trout was called Adell’s name from center field just so the rookie could see Trout applaud. Adell has settled in defensively since having a rough first week in the majors.

  • Rendon has assembled a seven-game hit streak, batting 11 for 24 with nine RBIs in the wake of his season-opening four-for-39 slump. He has raised his batting average to .238.

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