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OC Register: Oliver Drake, the Angels’ newest relief pitcher, has thrown batters for a curve

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ANAHEIM — Since he first stepped on a major league mound three years ago, Oliver Drake threw two pitches: a four-seam fastball and a split-fingered fastball. When Drake joined the Angels, his new manager made the mistake of calling Drake a two-pitch pitcher.

At least Mike Scioscia had a good excuse. Few pitchers decide to add a new pitch to their repertoire at age 31. Drake is the rare exception. He learned a curveball in Milwaukee, took it with him to Cleveland, and was still spinning them in pregame warmups Friday, his first day in an Angels uniform.

“It’s just one of those things, the majority of my career I’d just been a fastball/split-finger guy,” he said. “I thought it was beneficial to have kind of a different look. That was something they talked to me a little bit about in Milwaukee at the end of last year. So I spent some time this offseason working on it. It’s turned into a decent pitch for me.”

According to Brooks Baseball, Drake has thrown 40 curves and opponents have put just three balls in play, only one of which yielded a hit – a single. The pitch has generated four swings and misses.

The curve was not enough to make Drake a staple of the Brewers’ bullpen. He was designated for assignment May 2 after appearing in 11 games and allowing nine runs. Drake was traded to the Cleveland Indians three days later. He appeared in four games, allowed six runs, and was designated for assignment May 26. Thursday he was claimed by the Angels, his third employer this month.

In 106-2/3 major league innings, all out of the bullpen, Drake is 5-5 with a 4.81 earned-run average.

To make room for Drake on the 25-man roster, the Angels optioned right-hander Akeel Morris to Triple-A Salt Lake City.

“He can go multi-inning,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully when he’s on, he’s shown he can get major league hitters out. A couple rough outings here and there this year with some clubs. A lot of confidence in his stuff.”


Zack Cozart had an MRI on his left forearm Friday, two days after the infielder felt a “grabbing” sensation taking a swing in batting practice. He was held out of the lineup for the third straight game but said he will not need a trip to the disabled list.

Scioscia said the MRI would provide a “baseline” assessment. Neither he nor Cozart sounded too worried about the injury.

“Honestly, it feels better today,” Cozart said. “I’m not really concerned. It’s just trying to pinpoint what’s going on.”

Cozart said the Angels’ medical staff was able to rule out the possibility of any non-muscular injuries, including anything involving his elbow. Cozart hyperextended his left elbow in July 2011 and was forced to miss the remainder of his rookie season with the Cincinnati Reds.


Scioscia said two-way star Shohei Ohtani is penciled in to pitch next Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals, the final game of the Angels’ current six-game homestand. That would keep him on an every-seventh-day pitching schedule that the Angels have yet to hasten.

Ohtani will throw a full bullpen session Monday in preparation for his first start against the Royals. It will be his first start at home since May 20 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Ohtani is 4-1 with a 3.18 earned-run average in eight starts. Through Thursday, Ohtani was hitting .291 with six home runs and 20 RBIs in his first 103 at-bats. Scioscia reiterated Friday why he believes Ohtani’s primary value lies as a pitcher.

“I think one player has an opportunity to control one game more as a pitcher than a hitter,” he said. “Anyone that does this, when you go out there and you start 24 games, you have a chance to affect 24 games more in a bigger way than a hitter in the batter’s box. The biggest part of your defense is the pitcher on the mound, in unison with the catcher. The point I was making, just in general, is that a pitcher is going to affect one game more than a cleanup hitter. He has the opportunity to.”


Whether or not Ohtani participates in this year’s home run derby in Washington, D.C. is up to him, Scioscia said. Ohtani is listed as a designated hitter on the ballot, which became available on Major League Baseball’s website Friday. … Because of a pregame ceremony to commemorate Albert Pujols’ 3,000th career hit, first pitch Saturday is scheduled for 6:27 p.m. … The 23-year, 55-day age difference between starting pitchers Bartolo Colon and Jaime Barria on Friday was the largest of any game in Angels franchise history.


Angels (RHP Garrett Richards, 4-4, 4.67 ERA) vs. Rangers (LHP Cole Hamels, 3-5, 4.74 ERA), Saturday, 6:27 p.m., Fox Sports West

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