Bidding for roster spot, Plesac debuts with Halos

February 27th, 2024

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Right-hander made his Angels spring debut against the Brewers on Tuesday and came away satisfied with his work on his new two-seam fastball and sweeping slider.

Plesac, who was signed to a one-year deal worth $1 million on Jan. 6, threw two innings, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk with a strikeout in the Angels' 6-4 win over the Brewers. He’s getting stretched out to start this spring and is also competing for a spot as a long reliever with lefty José Suarez. Suarez, though, is out of Minor League options and would have to be exposed to waivers if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, while Plesac has options remaining.

“I felt good just getting that game tempo and finding my timing,” Plesac said. “I'm throwing that two-seamer a lot more. Mostly arm side, trying to run it on righties, and even down and away to lefties. And I’m throwing more of a new slider that is more of a sweeper and has more horizontal break to induce more swings. And I saw that today and so I’m happy with how that played out.”

Plesac, 29, has had success as a starter in the Majors with the Guardians, posting a combined 4.04 ERA in 445 1/3 innings from 2019-22 but struggled last year with a 7.59 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. But he's been working with pitching coaches Barry Enright and Steve Karsay on altering his pitch mix. He was previously someone who only utilized a four-seam fastball that he mostly tried to throw high in the zone and worked in his slider as his top secondary pitch with occasional changeups and curveballs.

But he’s hopeful that adding that two-seamer and that sweeper will help him this season, as the two-seamer can get quicker outs and the sweeper can lead to more whiffs and strikeouts.

“I’ve just been trying to impress these guys and go out there and show them I can play,” Plesac said. “I’m here to help his team win any way I can. So it's one of those things where I’m going to work day by day to get better little by little, and by the end of spring we look up and hopefully I'm where I want to be.”

Angels to emphasize aggressive baserunning

Despite rule changes in 2023 that were meant to encourage more basestealing and more aggressive baserunning, the Angels didn’t fully take advantage last year. They stole just 72 bases, which ranked as the second-fewest total in the Majors, and took the extra base on a hit only 38 percent of the time, which was also the second-lowest rate in MLB.

Angels manager Ron Washington said he plans to change that this year and it’s already showing up early this spring. The Angels have stolen 11 bases through their first five games, which ranks second among all clubs this spring. Washington is coming from the Braves, who stole 132 bases last year, which ranked 10th in the Majors, while they were also the best team in baseball at taking the extra base at 51 percent. Washington’s teams with the Rangers were also aggressive and led by basestealers such as Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler.

“I think everybody is going to be pleased because that’s what they were used to seeing from the Angels, when Mike [Scioscia] was managing, it was a regularity,” Washington said. “When I was in Texas, it was a regularity and when I was in Atlanta, it was a regularity. We stole five bases yesterday and three before that, but I want these guys to keep building. I don’t think teams are going to let us run crazy but if they fall asleep, we’re going to run. I want to be aggressive, that’s the way I want to play.”

Gubicza to serve as guest Spring Training instructor

Longtime Angels color analyst Mark Gubicza will serve as a guest instructor at Spring Training for the first time with the club, starting on Wednesday. Gubicza pitched 14 years in the Majors from 1984-97, including 13 years with the Royals, and a two-game stint with the Angels in '97. He’s a member of the Royals Hall of Fame and won a World Series in 1985.

Gubicza is entering his 17th year of providing color commentary with the Angels and is widely respected by Angels players. He offers plenty of pointers and tips throughout the season given his wealth of experience in the Majors but this will be his first time in uniform as a coach with the organization.