Sandoval eager to step up within Angels rotation

February 22nd, 2024

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If the Angels are to surprise and compete in 2024, the rotation is going to have to step up and show improvement from last season. And lefty knows he’s a major part of that.

Angels starters posted a 4.47 ERA in ’23, which ranked 19th in the Majors, as several pitchers took a step back, including Sandoval. Sandoval, 27, saw his ERA jump from 2.91 in 148 2/3 innings in 2022 to a 4.11 ERA in 144 2/3 innings last year.

Sandoval said last year left a sour taste in his mouth and he’s working with new pitching coach Barry Enright and bullpen coach Steve Karsay on both his mechanics and the mental side of pitching this spring.

“I’m not happy at all with the results of just my season personally and obviously how we ended up last year,” Sandoval said. “But I think consistency is key for me and being able to stay level-headed and not letting innings get too big. Just damage control, I guess.”

Sandoval knows he sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him when he gets frustrated on the mound and is working to improve that. But he said it’s equally important to get his mechanics back on track because he felt they were off last year.

He said getting those mechanics corrected has been his biggest emphasis so far this spring, but that he continues to work on the mental side of things as well.

“At times, in the longer innings my mechanics would get away from me,” Sandoval said. “Then I’d kind of zone back in. So the mental thing is one big cycle, I would say. So right now, I’m hammering down the mechanical stuff and the tempo of my delivery, and it’s really helping a lot.”

Angels manager Ron Washington has been getting to know Sandoval and watched him face hitters for the first time on Wednesday. Washington views Sandoval as a major part of the rotation and believes he has what it takes to become a more dependable starter.

“I think you learn when you do well and you learn when you don’t do too well,” Washington said. “I think Patrick has learned what he needs to do to stop the flow and how to become more consistent. Once he figures out the consistency of his craft, he’ll be fine.”

Sandoval certainly has the drive, as he arrived at the Angels’ Spring Training facility roughly a month early because he wanted to get a head start on getting ready for the season. He also incorporated Pilates into his offseason routine at the suggestion of right-hander Griffin Canning and worked to get stronger because he’s expected to throw more innings this year with the Angels going to a five-man rotation.

Sandoval previously was part of a six-man rotation that included Shohei Ohtani, so it’ll be an adjustment for him, but he’s ready for the challenge.

“I’m super excited because it adds four to six extra starts,” Sandoval said. “I want to be on the field as much as I can to help this team win.”

Sandoval also wants to step up as a leader more this year, as he’s now one of the club’s longest-tenured players, having been in the rotation since 2019. The Angels have a youthful club this year and Sandoval wants to help younger starters such as Reid Detmers and Chase Silseth in their development.

“I don’t think I’ve reached my full potential of being a leader of this team,” Sandoval said. “I've been around a little bit now and we have guys coming up. We’ve got a good young core. I definitely could have done a better job last year being a leader, a little bit more vocal. This year, I'm gonna do my best to change that.”

Sandoval has also been encouraged by the leadership of Washington and the new pitching coaches. But change is nothing new for Sandoval, who has had four managers and four pitching coaches in his five seasons with the Angels. But he’s already noticed a change in culture this year under Washington.

“The vibes here are really good,” Sandoval said. “The guys are ready to work. I think just the overall vibe around the guys of getting our work in is a little bit different this year. Everyone is very involved in everyone's development here and it's a good culture to have. It’s been really fun.”