Peña, Barria get reps in hunt for rotation

July 22nd, 2020

The Angels have yet to announce their sixth starter this season, but candidates Felix Peña and both pitched two innings in a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers in an exhibition game on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

Peña, Barria and left-hander Patrick Sandoval are the top candidates for the sixth spot, as the Angels are using six starters with Shohei Ohtani scheduled to pitch once a week on Sundays. But there remains a chance Peña could open in the bullpen and Barria could be kept as depth at their alternate site in Long Beach. In that scenario, Sandoval could be the sixth starter until right-hander Julio Teheran is ready to join the rotation after being roughly a week behind the others because of contracting COVID-19 in late June.

Angels manager Joe Maddon, though, said nothing has been decided yet and they’ll know more after meeting with the coaches tomorrow. Sandoval is also scheduled to start Wednesday’s game against the Padres.

“We are having a call tomorrow to try to put this all together,” Maddon said. “Just trying to see it all through and be fair to everybody. I’m seeing guys for the first time on a limited basis, although I had Felix in the past in Chicago. So it’s one of those situations where I do a lot of listening, because I have not seen enough of them, or in-season, which really matters, too.”

Peña fared better than Barria, but both scuffled against the high-powered Dodgers. Peña threw two innings, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts, while Barrria went two frames, surrendering three runs on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

“They just weren't as sharp, overall, with their command,” Maddon said. “The counts weren’t in their favor. Stuff-wise, maybe just a click off. It wasn't their night. Not that there is anything wrong with them, but it just wasn’t their game tonight and that’s why they ended up giving up some runs.”

Peña, who surrendered a two-run double to Enrique Hernández in the second, said after his outing that he remains ready to start, if needed. But he also hasn’t been told what role he’ll pitch in to begin the season. He has experience as both a starter and a reliever, and could fill a valuable role as a multi-inning swingman.

“I know I was just starting the game but if I had to keep pitching, I'm ready to do it, because I've been working like a starter,” Peña said through an interpreter via Zoom. “I feel good physically and mentally to throw five, six, seven innings. Doesn't matter."

Barria remains more likely to stay stretched out as a starter, as he doesn’t have relief experience like Peña. He ran into trouble in the third and served up a three-run homer to Chris Taylor. He had trouble with homers last year, giving up 24 in 82 2/3 innings, so it's a work in progress for him.

Sandoval is in a similar situation to Barria, as he’s not likely to be used in relief. Sandoval tested positive for COVID-19 in June and was a late arrival to camp, but Maddon believes Sandoval has made up any lost ground. He’s liked what he’s seen from the lefty, who is ranked as the club’s No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

"I do like him starting," Maddon said. "I look at Sandoval and gosh, I am so curious. I really believe with good health and opportunity this guy is gonna be not just good, but really good. So, we need to get him out there. He started late, but being around him a little bit, reading his face, he's very eager and I think he's going to be ready. But I really prefer him as a starter.”