Angels starter Jaime Barria impressed in his first intrasquad outing of training camp. In three modified innings Friday, he gave up two hits and drew numerous swings and misses from a shortened lineup of David Fletcher, Justin Upton, Brian Goodwin and Max Stassi.
Manager Joe Maddon praised Barria in a videoconference Saturday, his first chance to address the outing.
“He threw some really good breaking pitches,” Maddon said. “He's a really confident young man. When you walk in a dugout and you might say something to him, he's not overly impressed. And I like that. He knows what he's doing out there.”
Before spring training was canceled in mid-March, Barria’s path to the major league rotation was not clear. The Angels expected to begin the season without Griffin Canning (elbow injury) or Shohei Ohtani (Tommy John rehab) in the rotation. They had five options to replace them: Barria, Matt Andriese, Dillon Peters, Jose Suarez and Patrick Sandoval.
Canning and Ohtani are healthy now, but there is still an opening for another starter. The Angels continue to train without veteran Julio Teheran, who said Wednesday he was awaiting coronavirus test results.
Peters (oblique injury) and Suarez (undisclosed absence) also are missing in action. Sandoval missed the first six workouts for reasons the Angels did not make public; he needs time to ramp up to the preferred 90-pitch threshold.
That leaves Barria, Andriese and Felix Peña as the primary options to fill in a rotation that also will include Dylan Bundy and opening day starter Andrew Heaney. Two of three could earn spots if the Angels decide to use to a six-man rotation, which they did when Ohtani debuted as a two-way player in 2018.
Barria has a long history with the Angels. He signed with them as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2013. It wasn’t until 2017 that he made it to high-A Inland Empire, but he progressed quickly enough to earn a promotion to triple-A Salt Lake by the end of the season. He was 21 when he made his major league debut in 2018. He finished with the second-most starts (26) in the Angels’ injury-ravaged rotation and the second-lowest starter’s ERA (3.41).
Barria’s follow-up was underwhelming. He frequently was shuttled from the majors to triple-A last year. His performance suffered and he ended the season with a combined 7.63 ERA in 131 innings.
But Barria continues to hold promise.
“Just watch him. He's gonna keep getting better,” Maddon said. “He's one of those guys that has not nearly gotten to the highest level of achievement.”
After being slowed in camp by back stiffness, Ohtani on Saturday threw his first bullpen session since his Tuesday start and participated in his first intrasquad game as a hitter. He hit a double. “I think we are past that one,” he said of the ailment. … When veteran Albert Pujols needs time off from the field, the Angels will turn to first basemen Jared Walsh or Matt Thaiss before infielder Tommy La Stella. But Thaiss has not yet reported to camp for an unspecified reason. A prolonged absence could force Maddon to move La Stella, who was an All-Star at second base last season, sooner. Maddon said La Stella has practiced at first base enough to feel comfortable.