Loup joins USA 'pen; Ohtani to pitch in quarterfinal

March 11th, 2023

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels lefty reliever was added to Team USA’s roster for the World Baseball Classic on Saturday, replacing fellow lefty reliever Brooks Raley, who experienced tightness in his left hamstring.

Loup pitched against Team USA in an exhibition game on Thursday and looked sharp, throwing a scoreless inning despite walking Angels teammate Mike Trout. Loup also was teammates with Team USA manager Mark DeRosa in 2013 with the Blue Jays, and DeRosa called manager Phil Nevin on Friday to ask whether Loup would be interested in joining the Classic roster.

“It’s really exciting,” Loup said. “For doing what I've done in my career and to get to this point to be able to have a chance to go and pitch for your country and play for something as big as this is, it’s definitely an honor.”

Loup, 35, has pitched 11 seasons in the Majors, posting a 3.15 ERA with 435 strikeouts in 466 1/3 innings. His best season was in 2021, when he had a 0.95 ERA in 56 2/3 innings with the Mets. He then signed a two-year deal worth $17 million with the Angels that includes an option for ’24.

Loup had an up-and-down season in 2022, posting a 3.84 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. But he finished the year strong, posting a 2.42 ERA over his final 23 appearances after Aug. 1, and he feels like he’s back on track this spring.

“I’ve felt great,” Loup said. “It’s the best I’ve felt in a camp in a long time, and I think it’s shown the first two or three times I’ve been out there so far. Felt great, pitching great. Stuff has been working. I feel like I’m right where I need to be. I’m throwing my [secondary pitches] for strikes and locating my fastball, for the most part.”

Nevin said he’s excited for Loup, who gets to join Trout on Team USA’s star-studded roster. They play Great Britain on Saturday night, Mexico on Sunday, Canada on Monday and Colombia on Wednesday as part of Pool C play at Chase Field in Phoenix. If Team USA advances, the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are in Miami.

“He’s really excited,” Nevin said. “He obviously pitched a great inning against them the other day. When Raley unfortunately couldn't go anymore, Mark DeRosa called. He was teammates with Loup and liked the way he threw the other day, so it was a good choice.”

Ohtani to pitch in Classic quarterfinals
Two-way star has been dominant for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic and Japan has already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals with three straight victories to open the tournament. Nevin said Ohtani is scheduled to pitch in that quarterfinal game in Tokyo on Wednesday or Thursday, which would rule him out to pitch in the semifinals or finals in Florida.

That lines up Ohtani to then start against the Padres in Cactus League action at Tempe Diablo Stadium on March 24 to get ready for his Opening Day start in Oakland on March 30.

“He’d pitch on that last Friday here, which would line him up to start Opening Day,” Nevin said. “He’s pitching in the quarterfinal game, from what I’ve understood, and Friday is when he wanted to throw to get ready for Opening Day."

Suarez makes second start of the spring
Lefty José Suarez made his second spring appearance during Saturday's 11-10 win against the D-backs, allowing two runs on five hits over three innings. But Suarez didn’t walk a batter and said he was mostly pleased with the way he pitched.

Suarez said he spent the offseason in his native Venezuela working on his slider and his changeup. The slider is something he incorporated last season, which helped him finish the season strong and secure a spot in this season’s rotation. Suarez started last year at Triple-A Salt Lake, but he went on to post a 3.96 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 109 innings with the Angels. Suarez had a 5.60 ERA in 45 innings in the first half, but he had a 2.81 ERA in 64 innings (11 starts) after the All-Star break.

“I felt loose and confident with my pitches,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “Because I worked hard on my slider and changeup, I have confidence in them and can throw them in any count. I feel really good about both pitches right now.”