SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jake Faria estimated he grew up about five minutes from Angel Stadium and his family had Angels season tickets from roughly 2004-08.
So it’s been special for the graduate of Gahr High School in nearby Cerritos, Calif., to don an Angels uniform this spring after signing a Minor League deal with his hometown club in December. And with the way he’s pitched, he’s got a chance to crack the Opening Day bullpen, especially with injuries to Aaron Slegers and Félix Peña.
“It's been almost surreal,” Faria said via Zoom on Tuesday. “I don't know if it's really hit me yet, just because I think I've just gotten kind of used to it at this point, just putting on the Spring Training jersey and stuff. I've just tried to focus so much on baseball, so I don't think it's hit me fully yet. I think the [Freeway Series], being at the ballpark and in the clubhouse, it’ll probably hit me harder at that point.”
Faria, 27, has pitched in parts of three seasons in the Majors from 2017-19, posting a 4.54 ERA with 153 strikeouts in 170 1/3 innings with the Rays and Brewers. He's mostly been a starter throughout his career and has made 26 starts, but has also made 23 relief appearances. His best season came in '17 with the Rays, when he had a 3.43 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings while making 14 starts and two relief appearances.
Angels manager Joe Maddon had departed the Rays for the Cubs in '15, but was the manager of the Rays when Faria was a Minor Leaguer in the system from 2011-14. Faria has enjoyed working with Maddon this spring and is pleased he’s been given a legit shot to make the club after spending last year at Milwaukee’s alternate training site.
"It's nice to know that there is a job to compete for instead of going into a camp and being told you're competing for a job and, really, unless you do everything absolutely perfect, you're not gonna have any shot," Faria said. "I'm not saying that I have a huge margin for error here, but it's nice to know there actually is a real job to compete for."
Maddon has mostly liked what he's seen from Faria so far, as he's posted a 2.89 ERA in eight appearances, including eight strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. But he's also walked six, so his command is a bit of a work in progress.
"I've known him for a bit," Maddon said. "Right now, overall, he's probably be the first to admit his fastball command hasn't been exactly where he wants it to be. He has really good offspeed stuff. Overall, I just think it's been somewhat inconsistent, but I do like his history and his pitches. They do play up and he's got really good makeup. There's a lot to like, it's just a matter of him getting all this together."
Heaney takes a while to get going
Left-hander Andrew Heaney scuffled a bit against the Rangers, allowing five runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings with six strikeouts in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Rangers, but said he started to get a better feel for his mechanics later in his outing. It led to a funny exchange with Maddon in the fifth, as he told his manager he wanted one more batter, but Maddon told him he already signaled for a reliever.
"Obviously, the results were whatever, but the fastball felt really good, good command. I just felt off with a few things," Heaney said. "I kept trying to make adjustments and got that feel in the fifth inning. So there are things I still need to work on, but physically, I feel good and I'm ready to go."
• The Angels will host their alternate site at their club’s Spring Training facility in Tempe, Ariz. The club had originally planned to use their facility at Class A Inland Empire, which is located in San Bernardino, Calif.
• First baseman Albert Pujols is doing better after being hit on the left wrist by a pitch in Monday’s game. Pujols wasn’t in the lineup on Tuesday, but it was a planned day off. Pujols was diagnosed with a contusion and remains day-to-day.
• The Angels have yet to announce the order of their starters beyond Dylan Bundy starting on Opening Day against the White Sox on April 1. Maddon said they know the order, but he’s just not ready to announce it yet.