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Young Maldonado earns Halos hurlers' trust

MLB.com

DETROIT -- Against a powerful Tigers lineup, one that had batted .348 and slugged 12 home runs the previous five games, Angels righty Alex Meyer fanned a career-high nine hitters en route to the strongest outing of his young career Wednesday night.

But behind the plate -- and perhaps behind the scenes -- sat Martin Maldonado, who has earned the respect and trust of his pitching staff in his first season as a starting Major League catcher.

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DETROIT -- Against a powerful Tigers lineup, one that had batted .348 and slugged 12 home runs the previous five games, Angels righty Alex Meyer fanned a career-high nine hitters en route to the strongest outing of his young career Wednesday night.

But behind the plate -- and perhaps behind the scenes -- sat Martin Maldonado, who has earned the respect and trust of his pitching staff in his first season as a starting Major League catcher.

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"When a catcher has that passion, when a pitcher can feel that that catcher is as invested in this game as the pitcher is, there's a trust factor built up," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a two-time All-Star catcher. "And when you can be more decisive as a catcher, that makes your pitcher more decisive."

With Maldonado's help, Meyer kept the Tigers guessing through his six innings of one-run ball in the Angels' 4-0 loss, mixing knuckle curves with upper-90s fastballs. Meyer said he'd given some thought before his start of how to attack Detroit, a team he was seeing for the second time in less than four weeks. When Meyer found himself shaking off Maldonado's signs, Maldonado would sometimes shake back.

Video: LAA@DET: Meyer notches a career-high nine strikeouts

"He'd put something back down, the same thing," Meyer said. "And he was right."

Maldonado is hitting .264 this season, which is fifth among MLB catchers with at least 150 at-bats. He's hitting as well as he has in any season since his 2012 rookie year, but his offense isn't his greatest asset to the team. Nor is it his focus.

"I think that's what impresses us most about Martin, is how he dives into the game plan and pitch execution," Scioscia said. "He'd rather catch a shutout than hit two home runs."

A late-round pick for the Angels in 2004, Maldonado signed with the Brewers as a free agent in '07 and made his MLB debut in '11. He spent five years behind Jonathan Lucroy, before the Angels traded for him in December in a deal that sent catcher Jett Bandy to Milwaukee.

Maldonado has already appeared in 51 games this year, well on his way to eclipsing his career-high 79 games from two seasons ago.

"Now he's getting the opportunity, and we're very pleased at what he's done," Scioscia said. "Hopefully he'll continue to grow, as this is a new experience for Martin to really be that catcher that might go out and catch 120 games this year."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Cameron Maybin, who is eligible to return from the 10-day disabled list as early as Friday, took batting practice for the second straight day Thursday and ran the bases at half-sprint. Maybin, who is sidelined with a left oblique muscle contusion, had been filling in at center field for the injured Mike Trout, who isn't expected back for several weeks.

• Reliever Andrew Bailey, who was transferred to the 60-day DL less than three weeks ago, has been playing catch recently, Scioscia said.

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit who covered the Angels on Thursday.

Los Angeles Angels, Martin Maldonado