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OC Register: Mike Mayers credits his Angels breakout to social media


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Angels reliever Mike Mayers discovered what may have been the turning point of his career, of all places, on Instagram.

Last winter, amid the coverage of Roy Halladay’s candidacy and eventual election to the Hall of Fame, Mayers found the story of how Mariano Rivera showed Halladay the grip for his cutter.

The baseball they used, which is now a part of Halladay’s exhibit at the Hall of Fame, was traced with the hand position Rivera used. Mayers saw a photo on Instagam and tried to put his hand on the ball the same way.

“It seemed very simple,” Mayers said. “Kind of really fit my mindset, where I just kind of grabbed the ball and let it rip. It had some cut to it, so I just kind of tinkered with that, but that’s basically how it started. It was on Instagram.”

Mayers, who was claimed on waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals last winter, had a 7.03 ERA in parts of four seasons. In this shortened Angels season, his first throwing a cutter, Mayers has a 2.60 ERA.

His strikeouts per nine innings have gone from 7.8 to 14.0, and his walks down from 3.7 to 2.1.

Mayers throws a fastball that averages 94 mph, but its movement makes it less effective against lefties. His cutter moves the opposite direction, which has helped turn him into Manager Joe Maddon’s right-handed “lefty specialist,” in a sense.

Lefties are 3 for 33 against him with 15 strikeouts this season. Righties have hit .297 against him.

That’s why, despite, Mayers’ gaudy ERA, it doesn’t seem that Maddon is eager to slot him into a late-inning leverage situation where the inning, rather than the opposing hitters, would determine his use.

“Part of Mike’s success is that we’re putting him on the right guys,” Maddon said. “And I think he’s that kind of guy that if you match him up well, you’ll get that kind of performance pretty consistently.”

Whatever role Mayers is in, he’s just enjoying this run of big-league success, after floundering for much of his time in St. Louis.

“I’ve kinda turned the corner,” said Mayers, who is arbitration eligible for the next three seasons. “I feel like I have growing confidence. I think that the cutter this year really opened things up for me. It’s been a huge difference maker.”

ALSO

Felix Peña pitched a scoreless eighth Friday night after a four-day break since he had back-to-back rough outings last weekend. Maddon suggested Peña may have just been a little overworked and needed a few days off. Peña’s velocity had dropped slightly in the second of those games last weekend. …

David Fletcher returned to the lineup after a stint on the injured list with a sprained ankle. Maddon said he would be somewhat guarded, but Fletcher was close to 100%. …

The Angels optioned Jose Quijada to create a spot for Fletcher on the active roster. Quijada gave up the walk-off grand slam to Charlie Blackmon on Friday night.

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