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Middleton flashes rising confidence on mound

'He's got a special arm,' Scioscia says of rookie reliever
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- Keynan Middleton is just scratching the surface, but the potential is unquestionably tangible, from his pitching arsenal to his uninhibited passion for the game.

The Angels' rookie reliever tossed a perfect eighth inning in Monday's 4-0 win over the Dodgers, finishing his night with a strikeout of Cody Bellinger and an emphatic display of emotion -- clapping a fist into his glove as he exited the mound.

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LOS ANGELES -- Keynan Middleton is just scratching the surface, but the potential is unquestionably tangible, from his pitching arsenal to his uninhibited passion for the game.

The Angels' rookie reliever tossed a perfect eighth inning in Monday's 4-0 win over the Dodgers, finishing his night with a strikeout of Cody Bellinger and an emphatic display of emotion -- clapping a fist into his glove as he exited the mound.

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"Last night was a learning curve for me, trying to keep my emotions in check," Middleton said. "I'm learning every day."

"I think he feels this is where he belongs," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "We love the energy, we love the emotion, and there will be some baby steps he's gotta take to harness it, but he's doing a great job of that."

The outing marked Middleton's fourth straight appearance without allowing a run, a stretch only bested by his nine-game scoreless streak from May 19 to June 14.

Since the right-hander was called up on May 5, he's fired 24 strikeouts against 10 walks and 16 hits, logging a 3.13 ERA in 26 appearances this season.

Middleton can touch 100 mph with his fastball and throws a tough slider that can clock in the low 90s.

He says he's still trying to prove himself to be a reliable option out of the bullpen.

"[I'm learning to] just trust my stuff and attack the zone," Middleton said. "I have good enough stuff, so I don't have to try and hit corners and things like that. I just attack hitters, and that works for me."

That trust has enabled Middleton to come through in big spots against some of the hottest hitters in the Major Leagues this season. When Bellinger whiffed on an 89.9 slider Monday, he joined Yankees slugger Aaron Judge -- who struck out twice against Middleton -- as some of the most notable stars who've been punched out by the 23-year-old flamethrower.

Scioscia said Middleton has begun to find his form after struggling to do so during Spring Training.

"He's got a special arm," Scioscia said Monday. "Really electric stuff, and I think he's starting to get the confidence that he belongs in the Major Leagues, and he's really throwing the ball well."

Worth noting

Mike Trout hit soft toss Tuesday, and he is on schedule in his rehab, per Scioscia. The next stage in Trout's progression includes hitting live batting practice.

The Angels entered Tuesday's game 15-12 since losing Trout, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a torn UCL in his left thumb on May 29.

• Left-handed pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who's been on the disabled list with a strained right oblique since April 29, played catch Monday and is back with the Angels, per Scioscia.

Scioscia said Skaggs would be "evaluated again [Wednesday] to see if he's going to continue on his throwing program."

Kaelen Jones is a reporter for MLB.com. He covered the Angels on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Angels, Keynan Middleton