Angels players unsure when they’ll begin using PitchCom this season
The Angels opened the regular season Thursday night against the team that is probably most responsible for baseball approving the use of a wearable device that transmits signals from the catcher to the pitcher in an effort to eliminate sign-stealing and speed up games.
The Houston Astros, of course, were penalized for using a center-field camera and video monitor near the dugout to steal signs and bang a trash can near the dugout to relay pitches to batters during their run to the 2017 World Series title.
Both Angels catchers used the device, called PitchCom, during the Freeway Series against the Dodgers, Kurt Suzuki with left-hander José Suarez on Monday night and Max Stassi with right-hander Michael Lorenzen on Tuesday night.
But Stassi did not wear the device against the Astros on Thursday night, and Suzuki isn’t sure when he will feel comfortable enough to use it in the regular season. Some teams experimented with it in spring training, but MLB didn’t approve its use until Tuesday.
The family of a boy whose skull was fractured when he was hit by a baseball before a game at Angel Stadium three years ago is suing the Angels.
“I think it depends on the pitchers,” Suzuki said before Thursday night’s game. “We’re open to it. I mean, the Dodger series was literally the first time we used it. It’s a little bit of a work in progress, but we’re not opposed to it.”
The system includes a forearm sleeve, worn by the catcher, that resembles a remote control with nine buttons for pitch and location. The pitcher and catcher have receivers in their caps, and three other fielders—typically the two middle infielders and the center fielder—can wear receivers.
“You can’t pick signs with it, obviously,” Suzuki said, “but it’s hard to remember all the numbers [and matching them] with the scouting reports.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon is encouraging his pitchers and catchers to embrace the new technology so they can use it in games soon.
“I think it’s the best thing that we’ve done in MLB to this point regarding all the different attempts we’ve made to make the game more interesting,” Maddon said. “Anything that adds to the pace of our game is where we need to go. Not the length of the game. Leave that alone. Just the pace with which it happens.”
The shortened 3 ½-week spring training may have claimed its first Angels victim when left-hander Patrick Sandoval’s scheduled Friday night start was pushed back to Tuesday against Miami because of arm fatigue. Left-hander Reid Detmers will pitch against the Astros on Friday.
“I got built up pretty quick and just didn’t bounce back the way I hoped to,” Sandoval said. “It’s a little more sore than normal, but I’m working through it. I’ll be ready for Tuesday.”
Was the lockout-shortened camp a factor in his condition?
“I don’t want to pinpoint that,” Sandoval said, “but it could be.”
Taylor Ward, who figured to get the bulk of playing time in right field, was put on the 10-day injured list because of a mild left-groin strain that he suffered in Tuesday night’s exhibition finale against the Dodgers. Ward said the injury is “not anything serious,” and he doesn’t expect to be out more than 10 days.
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Mike Trout was back in the lineup and feeling “a lot better” Thursday night after missing the final two exhibition games against the Dodgers because of a nasty stomach bug that floored him shortly after Sunday night’s game against the Dodgers in Angel Stadium.
“I ate dinner 45 minutes after the game, and stuff hit the fan,” the center fielder said before the game. “I didn’t sleep much that night. I’m not going to get into details, but it wasn’t great. I don’t think I’ve been that sick since I was a little kid.
“Then Monday I was in bed all day. It felt like I had 30-40 carries in an NFL football game. I was all beat up. But I felt better Tuesday, came in here and had a little workout, got hydrated. I worked out [Wednesday] and I feel great now.”
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