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OC Register: Angels’ Patrick Sandoval learning to manage his emotions


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TEMPE, Ariz. — Emotion is the fuel that drives Patrick Sandoval, up until the times when it combusts and causes him to crash.

The Angels left-hander has demonstrated throughout his career that he has the stuff to be a frontline starting pitcher. One of the issues that’s kept him from staying at that level consistently, though, is an admitted difficulty keeping his emotions in check when things aren’t going his way.

He said he’s worked at it for years, talking to “a lot of people.” This spring, he’s optimistic about maintaining his composure, without losing the parts he wants to keep.

“I enjoy the emotional part of the game, big plays and big strikeouts,” Sandoval said. “I’m not going to be a robot out there and just walk off the field. That’s just not who I am. It’s never who I’ve been.

“I’m definitely focusing more on the good that happens in the game and picking teammates up, and letting them know the obvious like ‘Hey, great play. That was awesome.’ That’s what I want to be for this team, someone that uplifts guys and is a good presence to be around, and someone that they can enjoy playing behind.”

In the past, Sandoval has been visibly upset when teammates didn’t make plays behind him, when he would get unlucky at allowing a bloop hit, or if an umpire’s call didn’t go his way. At times, that would lead to an unraveling that spoiled his outing.

He said improving on the mental side “will definitely help elevate my game, to slow me down at times and keep me present and focused on the task at hand.”

There is no question that Sandoval can be a reliable starter.

In 2021 and 2022, he posted a 3.17 ERA over 235 2/3 innings and 41 starts. He was selected to Team Mexico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, and he further advanced his reputation by pitching well in starts against Team USA and Japan.

Once the 2023 season began, though, Sandoval wasn’t the same. An up-and-down year ended with a 4.11 ERA, including a career-worst 4.6 walks per nine innings.

It wasn’t all mental, though.

“It was a little bit of both (mental and physical),” Sandoval said. “At times, in long innings my mechanics would get away from me and it would be hard for me to zone back in. Right now, hammering down the mechanical stuff and the tempo of my delivery is really helpful.”

Sandoval said he had been working with new pitching coach Barry Enright and bullpen coach Steve Karsay long before spring training began in Arizona. So far, Sandoval said, the two newcomers have been “awesome.”

Sandoval, 27, said he also began doing Pilates over the winter, at the urging of teammate Griffin Canning.

Conditioning will be important for all Angels starters as they move to a more traditional schedule, working every fourth or fifth day instead of every fifth or sixth.

SUAREZ UPDATE

Left-hander José Suarez said he lost some weight over the winter, although he wasn’t sure how much.

“I’m not keeping score,” Suarez said through an interpreter Friday, his first day in camp after being delayed by a personal issue. “As soon as I start losing weight, my whole body starts to hurt.”

That aside, the Angels believe conditioning was one of the issues that hindered Suarez last year, when he failed to build on his encouraging performances from 2021 and 2022. Suarez had an 8.29 ERA in 33 2/3 innings, missing most of the season with a shoulder injury.

Now he said he feels good. In addition to the weight loss, he worked on his control this winter. He pitched 19 innings in winter ball in Venezuela, posting a 1.89 ERA.

Suarez, 26, comes into camp in contention for a job in the rotation, although he’s currently outside of the top five spots. He also could be used out of the bullpen, perhaps in the long relief role that Jaime Barria filled last year. Suarez is out of options, and will likely be claimed if the Angels try to get him through waivers.

“That’s always important to me (to be a starter),” Suarez said. “I came up as a starter, not a reliever. If (the bullpen) is an option for me, I’m OK with it, because I still have to do my work. I’ll do whatever I have to do, no matter what position I’m in.”

NOTES

The Angels have agreed with veteran infielder Ehire Adrianza on a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league camp. Adrianza appeared in just five big-league games with the Atlanta Braves last season. He’s spent parts of 11 seasons in the majors, known mostly for his defense. …

Kyren Paris said his thumb has not been an issue since undergoing surgery last fall. He said he was back to 100% by November. Paris was hurt placing a tag in September. Ron Washington said the Angels are focused on Paris playing the infield, although he could play the outfield if necessary.

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