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OC Register: Angels’ Austin Warren ascends quickly into high-leverage bullpen role


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ANAHEIM — Austin Warren has already vaulted himself near the top of Joe Maddon’s bullpen depth chart.

Obviously, that says as much about the muddled state of the Angels’ bullpen as it does about Warren, but the rookie right-hander has nonetheless made quite an impression on his manager.

Warren, 25, has allowed three earned runs in his first 8-2/3 big league innings, with eight strikeouts and one walk.

“Whenever it’s going to be vital, he’s going to be out there,” Maddon said. “He’s going to normally pitch even or ahead. As of now, you don’t want to pitch a guy like that when you’re behind. You want to put him on the premium part of their lineup, especially if it’s right-handed. Seventh or eighth inning. It doesn’t really matter. It’s when the crucial moment occurs.”

Those are big words for a pitcher who has received little prospect attention since the Angels plucked him out of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in the sixth round of the 2018 draft.

Maddon said he first got wind of Warren from Marcel Lachemann, a longtime big league pitching coach who is an Angels special assistant to the GM.

“If Marcel blesses him, I’m good,” Maddon said.

The next impression that Warren made on Maddon was before he even threw his first big league pitch. Maddon brought him in with a bases-loaded jam against the Oakland A’s on July 29.

Maddon said he was impressed with Warren’s demeanor when he handed him the ball.

“He wasn’t trying to talk himself into anything,” Maddon recalled. “He wasn’t trying to be a tough guy. He was just kicking the dirt around. He took the ball and threw a first-pitch slider for a strike.”

Maddon said that was an example of Warren’s “assertive attitude. It’s a strike-throwing attitude.”

For a team whose relievers have struggled with walks, Warren’s control has been a welcome addition.

As for his stuff, Warren throws a sinker and a slider. Maddon said he’s effective against right-handers and lefties. He also has the ability to work multiple innings.

“This guy’s good against both sides,” Maddon said. “Neutral relief pitchers who throw strikes? That’s golden.”

UPTON’S ROLE

Maddon has stuck to his plan of using outfielder Justin Upton against lefties ever since Jo Adell was recalled and given an everyday corner outfield job last week.

That’s meant that Upton has now started just twice in the last six games. Adam Eaton is the other side of the platoon, playing more often against right-handed pitchers.

Maddon said Upton is still contributing even with a reduced role on the field.

“J-Up is one of the best guys in our clubhouse if we were talking about mentoring others and what is said in meetings,” Maddon said. “He really is well thought out. I’ve gotten to know him even better this year than last year. He contributes all the time.”

NOTES

Right-hander Alex Cobb (wrist) continues to play catch, although the Angels have no timetable for his return. Cobb said last weekend that his goal was to be back before the end of August. …

Catcher Max Stassi returned to the starting lineup after being hit in the elbow by a pitch on Wednesday night.

UP NEXT

Angels (RHP Jaime Barria, 2-0, 4.21 ERA) vs. Astros (RHP Luis Garcia, 8-6, 3.29), Saturday, 6:10 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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