SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Dylan Bundy started Saturday on the additional day provided by a leap year, hoping that the calendrical quirk was a positive omen about taking a leap forward in his production this season, his first with the Angels.
After tossing two scoreless innings in his first spring outing, he was again on the mark in his second, retiring all six batters that he faced, including three by strikeout as the Angels defeated the Giants, 10-3, at Scottsdale Stadium.
Noting that he liked the zip on his four-seam fastball Saturday, Bundy discussed how elevating the pitch in the zone will be integral to his success moving into the regular season.
“It’s a tough pitch to hit because it looks good to hit, but it’s hard to catch up to,” Bundy said. “Just got to locate it well.”
In 2018, no pitcher in the Majors yielded more home runs (41) than Bundy. But even during that stretch, his proclivity for missing bats remained high, as he posted a career-best 24.5 strikeout percentage, amassing 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Angels catcher Jason Castro became acclimated with Bundy by facing him throughout his career, having collected one hit in seven plate appearances. Now wearing a chest protector when Bundy toes the rubber, the veteran spoke highly of the early work that the two have put in together.
“[Bundy] is actually one of the guys that I’ve caught the most so far and I’ve been pretty impressed,” Castro said. “I faced him a bunch, but you really get a sense of what a guy is trying to do when you get to catch him. … He’s been fun to catch. He definitely has an idea of what he’s doing out there and he knows how to work counts and hitters. He’s going to be a pleasure to catch moving forward.”
“So far, so good,” Bundy said of working with Castro. “We’ve been talking about our pitch sequences, what we want to do and how we want to set hitters up.”
• Castro mashed his first home run in an Angels uniform in the third inning, a towering shot to right-center field. Prior to the game, Castro spoke about the acclimation process to joining the Halos, noting that keeping his bat up to speed with his defensive obligations was merely a matter of preparation.
“I knew I put a good swing on it,” Castro said, “but I did not expect it to go that far.”
• Matt Thaiss also hit his first homer of the spring, a prodigious two-run shot that kept the line moving during an eight-run Halos third frame. Thaiss, who got the start at first base, is one of multiple players entrenched in a battle for an Opening Day spot on the Angels’ bench. Fifteen of the 31 hits that he notched across 53 games last season were of the extra-base variety, with his prolific blast Saturday the latest example of the pop in his bat.
“I like his approach a lot,” manager Joe Maddon said, while also alluding to Thaiss’ defensive flexibility. “He’s got a little bit of an edge about his game.”
• Prior to Saturday’s game, Maddon met with the parents of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, with whom he developed a kindred rapport during his time as skipper in Chicago.
Maddon spoke of the importance of the off-the-field work done by players such as Rizzo, citing that he has already been impressed by the work that many Angels players do in their spare time. Invoking the camaraderie that the Cubs had during his tenure of players supporting one another’s charities and endeavors, Maddon noted: “That’s something that I’d love to see established here.”
Maddon spoke highly of the work that first baseman Albert Pujols performs with the Pujols Family Foundation, which works with families and children who live with Down syndrome to help promote awareness and deliver impactful experiences.
“Anytime that the guys have something going on, I think it’s really important that I show up, for sure,” Maddon said.
After the Angels’ first attempt at split-squad matchups was rained out last Saturday, the club tackles two games in one day Sunday with both first pitches set for 12:10 p.m. PT. The club will send a pair of young southpaws to the mound in Jose Suarez (who faces the Rockies with the road squad) and Patrick Sandoval (who faces the White Sox at Tempe Diablo Stadium). Suarez struck out three batters in his Cactus League debut, while Sandoval toes the rubber for the first time this spring. Both are making their case for breaking camp with the club and cracking the starting rotation, having made a combined 24 starts with the Halos in 2019.