Angels remain confident in Hunter Strickland despite recent performance

ANAHEIM — The next time the Angels need to put up a zero late in a close game, manager Ron Washington won’t hesitate to bring Hunter Strickland out of the bullpen.

The veteran right-hander had a rare off-night on Friday in the series opener against the visiting Houston Astros, made worse by a missed called third strike that would have been the second out in the seventh inning.

Instead, Houston third baseman Alex Bregman drew a walk two pitches later to load the bases. That forced Strickland to throw strikes to No. 3 hitter Yordan Alvarez and he cleared the bases with a two-strike double that broke the 1-1 tie.

Two batters later, Yainer Diaz blasted a two-run homer and the Astros were well on their way to the 7-1 victory.

Strickland also thought he struck out Bregman, but didn’t blame home plate umpire Jonathan Parra for the implosion.

“We are all human,” he said. “If it’s a mistake, it’s a mistake. Obviously, the pitches after that were mistakes on my end, so I’ve got to do better.”

The loss ended a three-game winning streak during which Strickland earned a win and a hold.

Before Friday, Strickland had not allowed an inherited runner to score in his previous 26 appearances this season. He had gone his previous 10 appearances without allowing an earned run.

“I saw the same thing I’ve always seen, the only thing is the results were different,” Washington said of Strickland’s performance on Friday. “I’m certain when he gets the ball again, he’ll get us three outs.”

Even with the setback on Friday, the two-time World Series champion is still having one of the best seasons of his 10-year MLB career. That’s notable considering Strickland appeared to have run out of opportunities when the Cincinnati Reds released him on May 9, 2023.

After going unclaimed, Strickland returned home and began training youth players last summer, advising them to always give 100 percent and focus solely on the parts of the game they can control.

That’s when he realized he wasn’t following his own advice.

“It hit home with me that I can’t preach what I don’t act, knowing that I’ve still got more in the tank,” he said.

Strickland began working with the Maven Baseball Lab in Atlanta, developing a new grip on his slider that added more life. He’s also brought his split finger out of mothballs.

“All in all, just getting my mechanics back right,” he said.

The Angels offered Strickland a minor-league contract on February 16. He didn’t make the team out of spring training, but was recalled on April 8 when the Angels placed right-handers Chase Silseth and Guillo Zuñiga on the 15-day IL.

DIFFERENT VANTAGE POINT

In the bottom half of the inning following Bregman’s controversial walk, Angels catcher Logan O’Hoppe struck out looking.

O’Hoppe didn’t head straight to the dugout, instead having a lengthy face-to-face conversation with Parra.

“That was more frustration from the inning before because there were two calls that I feel like needed to be called strikes,” O’Hoppe said. “It was just a conversation with him. I wasn’t mad at him, or called him anything. I just asked him to just be in that conversation with me.”

Washington said Parra engaging O’Hoppe in such a long discussion without temperatures flaring was a good sign.

“Usually when an umpire takes in your conversation, you’ve got some valid points,” Washington said. “He was talking to him very calmly and shaking his head, but O’Hoppe was making his point, and the point was valid because usually if it’s not valid, you’ll see a reaction from the umpire.”

DETMERS UPDATE

Washington said before Saturday’s game that he had not read the report on the performance of left-hander Reid Detmers in his first start with Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday.

Detmers allowed seven runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 7-1 loss to Sugarland. He struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter.

Detmers, a former first-round pick of the Angels, was demoted on June 1 after his record fell to 3-6 and his ERA ballooned to 6.14 through 12 starts.

“It’s not about the results, it’s about him landing his pitches,” Washington said.

STEFANIC RECALLED

The Angels recalled infielder Michael Stefanic from Salt Lake on Saturday and demoted infielder Kyren Paris.

Stefanic’s season got off to a slow start after he sustained a left quad strain in a Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, ending his spring training.

He was transferred to the 60-day IL on April 30 before making his season debut for Salt Lake on May 13.

He was hitting .344 in 61 at-bats with an .866 OPS when he was recalled.

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Stefanic has appeared in 25 games in each of the past two seasons for the Angels, combining to hit .244 with no home runs and six RBIs in 123 at-bats.

“Excited to be healthy and it’s always exciting to get back into a big-league clubhouse,” he said.

Stefanic was not in the starting lineup against Astros right-hander Hunter Brown on Saturday, but will likely be used as a late-inning pinch-hitter.

UP NEXT

Astros (RHP Justin Verlander, 3-2, 3.63 ERA) at Angels (LHP Patrick Sandoval, 2-8, 5.00 ERA), Sunday, 1:07 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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