Angels try a new tack with rotation in flux

Criswell has a short start in his MLB debut; Naughton fares well in relief

August 28th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- With their rotation ravaged by injuries recently, the Angels are going to have to count on inexperienced pitchers for much of the rest of the regular season.

Right-hander made his Major League debut in a spot start against the Padres on Friday night, but it didn’t go as hoped. The 25-year-old lasted just 1 1/3 innings and allowed three runs in a 5-0 loss at Angel Stadium. But lefty , 25, fared much better in his second career appearance, surrendering two unearned runs over 4 1/3 innings.

“I thought Packy was outstanding,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He really was. He attacked the strike zone with a variety of different pitches. He's definitely not afraid. He's got a really good presence out there. It was an outstanding performance."

Naughton’s effort could set him up for his first career start at some point next week. He mostly worked as a starter at Triple-A Salt Lake, making nine starts and four relief appearances with a 4.76 ERA in 56 2/3 innings. Maddon said it’s too early to make that decision.

"I don't know yet; we haven't decided,” Maddon said. “But I like him. When you give him the ball on the mound, he's pretty confident. It's not unlike what I saw with [Austin] Warren when I first met him on the mound. I like the way he is. He's self-confident, and he attacks with strikes. So it was all good stuff."

The Angels need all the help they can get with their rotation, as they’re currently without Patrick Sandoval (back stress fracture), Dylan Bundy (right shoulder inflammation), Alex Cobb (right wrist inflammation), Chris Rodriguez (right lat strain) and Reid Detmers (injured list without a designation). Sandoval will be out for the rest of the year, while the rest of the pitchers were listed as week to week by general manager Perry Minasian.

In his MLB debut, Naughton gave up a run in one inning of work against the Dodgers on Aug. 8. This time, Naughton helped give the Angels some length and threw 58 pitches. It was a much-needed effort, as Angels starters have struggled to pitch deep into games. Over the past eight games, Angels starters combined to throw just 22 innings, which means they have averaged fewer than three innings per start.

Criswell, ranked as the club's No. 29 prospect by MLB Pipeline, had a tough time fooling Padres hitters. He didn't induce a swing and miss among any of his 41 pitches. His fastball averaged just 87.2 mph, and his slider and changeup weren't effective enough to mask his lack of velocity. Criswell, though, still came away pleased to reach his dream of pitching in the Majors and said the key will be getting ahead of hitters more going forward.

“It was an unbelievable experience," Criswell said. "It was a dream come true that finally this day has gotten here. A lot of hard work and dedication to get here. I just had some jitters today and some excitement. I just wasn't locating my stuff early in counts and fell behind, and that didn't help me much."

Criswell pitched around a leadoff double in the first from Fernando Tatis Jr. but scuffled in the second and couldn’t get out of the inning. After getting Austin Nola to fly out to right, he surrendered five straight hits, including a two-run triple to Jurickson Profar and an RBI single to Jake Marisnick with the infield in.

After Tatis singled to put two runners on with one out, Criswell was replaced by Naughton, who was able to get out of the jam. Naughton got Jake Cronenworth and Manny Machado to ground out to end the inning.

"They were hitting him pretty hard,” Maddon said of Criswell. “In the first inning, he got them to put the ball on the ground a couple times. I thought, ‘Here we go.’ And then in the next inning, I just didn't feel comfortable with him and I wanted to keep the game close."

Naughton’s only real trouble came in the fifth inning, when he gave up a leadoff single to Machado and Eric Hosmer reached when a fielding error by shortstop José Iglesias erased a would-be forceout. Nola brought home a run with a single, and Trent Grisham followed with a potential double-play ball, but Iglesias made a wild throw to first with Naughton getting late to the bag. Iglesias’ second error of the inning allowed Hosmer to score.

“He should have given up nothing,” Maddon said of Naughton. “We gave him the two runs on two plays in the fifth.”