'Tough last day': Halos' 'pen less than angelic

August 26th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- The Angels are having some bullpen issues, which couldn’t have come at a worse time for the club. Thursday afternoon’s rubber match was the final game before the team returns to Angel Stadium after finishing up a five-city road trip in Baltimore.

“Tough last day,” manager Joe Maddon said after the 13-1 loss to the Orioles. “We got to get our bullpen straight. Our pitching, our starting pitching, everything about our pitching needs to get straightened out again.”

Entering the series finale at Camden Yards, it was clear that the bullpen was gassed. With Jaime Barria on the mound, the Halos knew they wouldn’t get more than a few innings out of the righty. He tossed 3 1/3 frames, allowing one run on five hits and two walks. Prior to his start on Thursday, Barria had worked just 11 innings over his three previous starts this month.

How did the bullpen get so overused?

• To start the series, Dylan Bundy tossed just 1 1/3 innings in the 14-8 win on Tuesday, before being placed on the IL with a right shoulder strain.

• His shortened start left the bullpen fatigued and meant most of the reliable arms would be out for Wednesday's game. It was a Shohei Ohtani start, so Maddon thought he might be OK with the arms he had in the ‘pen, but the All-Star didn’t have his best stuff and was pulled after the fifth inning.

“That's why I talk about the interconnectivity of everything,” said Maddon. “You just can't look at today and just say, ‘Well, that's really bad.’ It was connected to yesterday, which was connected to the first game here. And that's my perspective.”

The Angels’ bullpen hasn’t been a strong point all year, owning the eighth-worst ERA (4.76) in the Majors and allowing an MLB-most 48 hits since August 15. Their starters have been middle-of-the-road in ERA, and pitching plans for the upcoming series against the Padres are unclear. Four starting arms have recently been placed on the IL, including Bundy. The other three starters -- Jose Marte, Austin Warren and Reid Detmers -- were placed on the injured list with undisclosed ailments.

Maddon hasn’t decided how he will fill the starting roles in the upcoming week, but it is clear that the bullpen will be heavily relied upon. The club called up Elvis Peguero and Jake Petricka from Triple-A Salt Lake to help fill some innings, giving both the chance to prove themselves in the organization.

Peguero started his 2021 season playing with the Hudson Valley Renegades -- the Yankees’ High-A affiliate. A trade landed him a spot in the Angels organization, where he ranks as the No. 24 prospect. Now, three months later, the righty made his first Major League appearance on Thursday. Peguero allowed five runs on two hits and three walks in two-thirds of an inning, and he was clearly frustrated when he was replaced by Petricka.

When Petricka entered the game, he owned a 54.00 ERA after allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning the night before. He was asked to get out of a bases-loaded jam left by the rookie Peguero. Petricka allowed a grand slam to Pedro Severino on the first pitch he threw, blowing the game wide open for the Orioles.

The game plan was to have Andrew Wantz finish the fourth inning -- which he did -- leaving Peguero to toss two innings. Maddon knew the rookie was capable of it, but he just couldn’t execute on Thursday. The skipper won’t hold Peguero’s performance against him, suggesting that he brush it off for the upcoming games, when he will get plenty of chances to cover innings.

“Physically, yes, really good stuff,” said Maddon on Peguero. “Absolutely a lot to learn, no question. [His] stuff is wonderful and we want it. … But we got to get the guy to be able to process the moment and put it into play here.”

When Maddon was asked again about rotation plans, he did not have an answer, besides stating that he needs every pitcher to step up. The team confirmed that José Suarez is scheduled to start on Saturday, though he is the only confirmed starter for the upcoming Padres series.