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OC Register: Angels’ José Suarez might be pitching for his job Sunday


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MILWAUKEE — José Suarez is going to get the ball again Sunday, with his job on the line.

While Manager Phil Nevin won’t publicly say that Suarez is going to lose his spot in the rotation if he doesn’t pitch well against the Milwaukee Brewers, he did concede earlier this week that they are now going “start to start” with Suarez after he began the year with four disappointing outings.

Suarez, a 25-year-old lefty who had a 3.86 ERA over 207 1/3 innings in the previous two seasons, has a 10.26 ERA this season. Opponents have hit .382 with an OPS of 1.184 against him.

Nevin oversaw the work the pitching coaches did with Suarez during his bullpen session Thursday. A manager would not normally be around for a routine bullpen session.

“Working on being more consistent with his location, more consistent with his delivery,” Nevin said. “That’s the only thing we see. I stood down there, watched film, everything.”

Suarez’s poor command has led to him throwing a first-pitch ball 43% of the time, up from 35% last year.

When he has gotten ahead, he’s still gotten hit hard, because his put-away pitches have missed their spots. Opponents are hitting .379 with a 1.276 OPS when Suarez is ahead in the count. Last year it was .184 and .489.

In his seven-run debacle Monday, Suarez gave up homers on a 1-and-2 pitch and an 0-and-2 pitch. The latter was a hanging sweeper to No. 9 hitter Kevin Smith, who at that point was hitting .171.

“I think that when you’re trying to put a hitter away and throwing harder, you’re losing your mechanics,” Nevin said. “When he’s trying to bury one and he doesn’t quite get it there and he leaves it in the middle, those are the balls that get hit.”

Suarez, like many pitchers nowadays, throws a harder slider and a sweeper. Last year he threw his slider an average of 81.7 mph, and opponents hit .167 against it. This year it’s averaged 83.9 mph. The extra effort he’s putting into the pitch to get the extra velocity could be affecting his mechanics, causing the poor command. Most pitchers this side of Shohei Ohtani also lose movement as they add velocity, and Suarez is getting about three inches less drop on his slider this year.

Less break plus poor location have led to opponents hitting .588 against his slider.

“I wasn’t executing (the slider) at all,” Suarez said through an interpreter Saturday. “That’s what I’m working on.”

The other issue with Suarez was possible pitch-tipping during his last start against the A’s. Nevin said they investigated that and dismissed it.

“I don’t think that’s real,” he said.

The pitches Suarez was burned on in that game were simply poorly located. In the final two innings, he located better and didn’t give up any more runs.

There was no suggestion of tipping from Suarez’s first three starts, but he was still hit hard simply because his location was bad.

Nevin said they have made some changes that they believe will help Suarez have more consistent mechanics, which will help him get the ball where he wants it.

“We’re just getting him to repeat and repeat,” Nevin said. “I think he took a different approach to his last bullpen.”

Suarez said he understands what has been going wrong and he said he was happy with the work since his last start.

“I feel really good,” Suarez said. “I feel 100% confident. I feel it coming back.”

If it doesn’t work, the Angels will likely have no choice but to send him to the bullpen, putting either Tucker Davidson or Chase Silseth in the rotation.

WARD MOVED

Nevin moved Taylor Ward down from the leadoff spot to No. 7, a recognition of the slump that he’s been in for most of the first month of the season. Ward was hitting .216 with a .649 OPS. Rookie Zach Neto moved up to the leadoff spot.

“It’s just more trying to find the right fit for the moment,” Nevin said. “Nothing’s etched in stone with any spot in the lineup. Net’s been swinging the bat great. Wardo, let’s get him more at-bats maybe with runners on in front of him. His at-bats have been a little better in those situations. So maybe that’ll be something to get him going.”

Ward said he was cheating to get to inside pitches and that was causing him to come off the ball instead of having an approach to hit the ball up the middle or to right center.

DEVENSKI ARRIVES

Right-hander Chris Devenski joined the Angels, replacing left-hander José Quijada. Devenski, 32, was an All-Star reliever with the Houston Astros in 2017, but two surgeries in the past three years sent his career off the rails. He had pitched nine innings so far at Triple-A, allowing four runs.

“I felt like I was throwing well,” Devenski said. “I felt like I was executing my pitches. (The Pacific Coast League) is a tough league to pitch in. Every league’s tough to pitch in. Pitching is hard. But I felt like I was throwing well.”

Devenski is a product of Gahr High and Cal State Fullerton who grew up rooting for the Angels.

There is no timetable for Quijada’s return. He felt some discomfort in his elbow when he woke up Friday and underwent an MRI later in the day. He was traveling back to Southern California on Saturday to be evaluated by Angels doctors, Nevin said. They are expecting more information in the next couple days, Nevin said.

NOTES

Right-hander Ryan Tepera (shoulder inflammation) “felt good” a day after pitching a perfect inning for Class-A Inland Empire, Nevin said. The plan is for him to pitch another inning Sunday and be re-evaluated. He would be eligible to be activated for the start of the Angels’ series in St. Louis on Tuesday. …

The Angels moved catcher Logan O’Hoppe to the 60-day injured list to create a spot on the 40-man roster for Devenski. O’Hoppe is going to be out at least four months after undergoing shoulder surgery. …

The Angels don’t have a day off planned for Ohtani. Nevin said he would play Sunday and they would then talk about when he might need a day off.

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP José Suarez, 0-1, 10.26) vs. Brewers (RHP Colin Rea, 0-1, 5.17), 11:10 a.m. Sunday, Angel Stadium, Bally Sports West, 830 AM.

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