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OC Register: Angels pitcher Jaime Barría, 14 pounds lighter, trying to rediscover rookie form


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TEMPE, Ariz. — Jaime Barría’s 2018 season seems like so long ago.

The Angels, who have spent all winter trying to upgrade their starting pitching, just two seasons ago had a 21-year-old post a 3.41 ERA over 26 starts.

Barría is now trying to turn back the clock, after a winter spent shedding the pounds he gained since his big-league debut and trying to return to the pitch repertoire that made him successful.

“I feel I have a fresh mind,” Barría said through an interpreter Saturday morning. “There are new people around here and they are giving me a chance. If I stay healthy and maintain my work ethic, I do believe I can stay up here in the majors.”

Following the aforementioned breakthrough rookie season, Barría seemed destined to be a part of the rotation going into 2019. In fact, Barría said he’d been told that he would start the fifth game of the season. He’d made living arrangements in Southern California.

Then, just days before opening day, the Angels swung a deal with the San Francisco Giants for Chris Stratton, who was out of options. The Angels believed there was more in the tank for Stratton – who had the high spin rate they gravitate toward – and they wanted to give him a shot. To create a spot for Stratton, the Angels sent down Barría. As it turns out, it was a crushing move.

“It was very frustrating for me, thinking I had earned a spot,” he said. “I think the frustration carried over during the regular season.”

When Barría did get the chance to pitch in the majors, he was doing so under an organizational philosophy to reduce the usage of his two-seam fastball.

In 2018, Barría threw his two-seamer 23.3% of the time and his four-seamer 26.3%. Last year, the Angels cut his two-seamers down to 5.5%, essentially replacing those pitches with extra sliders. Barría’s slider is his best pitch.

Now the Angels have a new manager, in Joe Maddon, and a new pitching coach, in Mickey Callaway. Barría said they told him he can throw the two-seamer again.

Maddon, however, said it’s not as simple as throwing one type of fastball or the other. Often, two-seamers are better for arm-side hitters – right-handed batters against right-handed pitchers – and four-seamers for the opposite-side hitters.

“If he throws less two-seamers to this side and more to this side, we really believe that’s going to make you better, so we’ve undergone that exercise with him,” Maddon said.

Maddon added that many pitchers prefer two-seamers because of the sink and movement, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a better pitch.

“I think because it’s straight sometimes pitchers underestimate the four-seam fastball,” Maddon said. “It looks straight, but they don’t understand that the hitter has a hard time catching up with that.”

Besides the type of pitches he was throwing, Barría had also gained some weight, so he committed himself to getting in better shape over the winter. Barría focused on eating healthier, and he ran on the beach near his home in Panama at 5:30 in the morning each day.

He has lost 14 pounds since last year.

The result, he hopes, will be a bounceback season.

“I was trying to get myself back to the Barría of 2017 and 2018,” he said. “That’s when I felt my best.”


Ty Buttrey will be slowed for a couple weeks with a slight strain of his left intercostal muscle, but he is still expected to be ready for Opening Day, according to Maddon.

Buttrey said he felt something while reaching across his body when he was playing catch Thursday, and it was still bothering him Friday. The Angels sent him for an MRI, which showed the mild strain.

“The last thing I need to do, on Feb. 14, is to try play through it and make it worse,” Buttrey said Saturday. “We’re just trying to be more cautious. I feel great. They said the time for this to happen is right now… I’m not worried about it in the slightest.”


Left-hander Luiz Gohara, who was once a top pitching prospect with the Atlanta Braves, is in camp with the Angels rehabbing a shoulder injury. Gohara said he has played catch four times and feels good. Gohara is months away from being able to pitch in games, though. “I know he’s got a big arm,” Maddon said. …

Shohei Ohtani finally got his driver’s license over the winter. He said through his interpreter that he’s “enjoying” driving and he’s “pretty good.” He still hasn’t driven alone on the freeway.

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