The Angels added some relief depth on Saturday, acquiring veteran right-handed reliever Hunter Strickland for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Strickland, 32, pitched well with Tampa Bay this season, posting a 1.69 ERA with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 16 innings. He has a career 3.14 ERA with 249 strikeouts in 269 2/3 innings in eight seasons in the Majors. He didn’t officially join the Angels in Boston on Saturday, but he’s out of Minor League options, so he’s expected to join the club on Sunday.
"I've seen him for a long time, back when he was in San Francisco and in the playoffs," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "He's got a power arm, and he's had a lot of success. He's pitched really well this year. A little bit of a different look [for our bullpen], with more power."
Angels reliever Tony Watson also knows Strickland from their time together in the Pirates' organization from 2009-12 and with the Giants in 2018, and vouched for him as a teammate and competitor. Strickland pitched with San Francisco from 2014-18, posting a 2.91 ERA with 19 saves. Strickland won a World Series with the Giants in ’14 and another one with the Nationals in ’19.
"I've known Hunter for a long time," Watson said. "He's an intense competitor. He has some backend experience. He was a closer for a while in San Francisco and had some success. He's got really good stuff and a really good arm, so it'll be a nice addition for us, for sure."
Strickland is also known for his temper and intensity, including missing two months in 2018 with a broken hand after punching a door following a blown save. He also had several dust-ups with Bryce Harper.
Watson, however, believes Strickland has learned to deal with his emotions better.
“I think he’s gotten better over his career,” Watson said. “Everyone knows the stuff that’s happened in the past, in San Francisco. I think as I finished playing with him there, he was doing a much better job of channeling that on the mound.
Fletcher moved to ninth in order
Second baseman David Fletcher has struggled offensively this season and was moved down from his usual spot as leadoff hitter to the club’s No. 9 batter on Saturday. Taylor Ward started in right field and led off for the Angels. First baseman Jared Walsh also got a scheduled day off with a lefty on the mound for Boston.
Fletcher has been in a slump recently, going 0-for-13 over his last three games, bringing down his batting line to .256/.278/.282 in 36 games, entering Saturday. He’s expected to remain in the No. 9 spot in the order for the time being, and the club will mix and match leadoff hitters.
“It’s going to be for a little bit,” Maddon said. “I want him just to go and hit. Just get his stroke back.
"I think he's so unselfish at the top of the order, he tries to play for the rest of the team and I'd rather him go and be a little bit selfish right now. Go ahead and hit. I have so much respect for his game, and this is a way for him to be more aggressive at the plate."
Canning on an impressive run
Right-hander Griffin Canning allowed two runs over six strong innings in a no-decision on Friday night, giving him three straight solid outings following a rough start to the season. After posting an 8.40 ERA through his first four starts, Canning has a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings over his last three outings.
Maddon believes that improved fastball command and better use of his changeup and slider have accounted for Canning's turnaround.
“I think the fastball command has gotten better and everything is playing off it,” Maddon said. “The slider has been good and the changeup is really good. And with his fastball playing up, the velocity has been higher.”
Canning, who had a 3.99 ERA in 11 starts in 2020, is taking his recent success in stride and knows he has to continue to build on it, as he still has a 4.78 ERA in seven outings this season.
"I believe in myself, so I guess it's nice to see some results," Canning said. "But it's over and I have to move on to the next one. [I'm] trying to get better this week for the next one."