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OC Register: Jamie Barria’s 21-pitch duel with Brandon Belt sets a major league record


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ANAHEIM – Jaime Barria came to the ballpark Sunday hoping to prove he belongs in the Angels’ starting rotation. He would leave with a small piece of baseball history.

Barria threw 21 pitches to the San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt in the first inning, the longest at-bat on record since pitch counts have been recorded. The at-bat lasted 12 minutes. It was prolonged by four throws over to first base and 16 foul balls – one of which started in fair territory before curling in front of the right-field foul pole.

The duel finally ended with a pedestrian fly ball to right field, an easy catch for Kole Calhoun. Barria received a loud ovation and a visit from Angels pitching coach Charles Nagy.

The previous record was set in June 1998, when Bartolo Colon struck out Ricky Gutierrez to end a 20-pitch at-bat.

Barria, a 21-year-old right-hander making his second major league start, nearly didn’t make it out of the first inning. He loaded the bases on three singles and threw 49 pitches. According to Dan Hirsch of The Baseball Gauge, only two pitchers have ever thrown more pitches in a scoreless inning since at least 1988.

Angels reliever Blake Parker was warming up by the time Pablo Sandoval popped out to Andrelton Simmons to end the inning. The Giants left the bases loaded and nobody scored.

Coincidentally, the Angels had seven pitchers in their bullpen Sunday for the first time this season. They had kept eight relievers in every game, before right-hander Eduardo Paredes was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake to make room for Barria.

OHTANI MOVES UP

Shohei Ohtani hit fourth against the Giants, the highest he’s batted in a major league lineup. When he decided to give Albert Pujols a day off, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Ohtani made the most sense for the cleanup spot.

“If Albert was in the lineup,” Scioscia said, “he (Ohtani) would not be hitting fourth.”

Ohtani also threw a 37-pitch bullpen session in advance of his next start Tuesday in Houston. Charlie Morton (3-0, 0.72 earned-run average) will start that game for the Astros.

Ohtani’s schedule Sunday was unlike that of any cleanup hitter since maybe Babe Ruth. Even Ruth did not claim pitcher as his primary position after the age of 23. For Ohtani, who turns 24 in July, it’s no different from what he was accustomed to in Japan.

“Everything is basically the same,” he said through his interpreter. “Similar practice menu. Similar rhythms.”

“We’re all going through this for the first time, Shohei included,” Scioscia said. “As we get some experience about what he needs and what’s going to make him the best player, the most productive player, obviously he’ll adjust from it. I think it’s a good starting point. We will certainly use all the information we gather from him playing and pitching and hitting and we can always make adjustments.

“I would be surprised if there weren’t any adjustments. I think it’s a real good template that has a lot of historical data from what he did in Japan that’s applied to it. We’re going to adjust however we have to.”

REMEMBERING MERCKER

The baseball community set its thoughts and prayers on Chicago White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar, who suffered a brain aneurysm during Friday’s game against the Houston Astros. Farquhar remained hospitalized Sunday in critical but stable condition, according to various reports.

The incident evoked haunting memories of the Angels’ game against the Texas Rangers on May 11, 2001. On that day, Angels pitcher Kent Mercker had to leave in the second inning because of a brain hemorrhage. Scioscia remembered it well.

“(Mercker) was pitching here on the mound, he came out,” Scioscia recalled. “He was kind of like out of sorts. He thought his ears were popping. You knew something was happening. He was having trouble focusing.”

Mercker was examined by team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum and athletic trainer Ned Bergert, who sent the pitcher to a local hospital for further evaluation. Only then was the hemorrhage diagnosed. Mercker didn’t pitch for the Angels for three months and a day.

Staff Writers Jeff Fletcher and Elliott Teaford contributed to this story.

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