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Angels option Barria; Stratton makes rotation

March 27, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels shook up their rotation on Tuesday, replacing right-hander Jaime Barria with newly acquired righty Chris Stratton, who joined the club via a trade with the Giants late Monday evening. The Angels sent left-hander Williams Jerez to San Francisco in exchange. Barria, who was expected to

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels shook up their rotation on Tuesday, replacing right-hander Jaime Barria with newly acquired righty Chris Stratton, who joined the club via a trade with the Giants late Monday evening. The Angels sent left-hander Williams Jerez to San Francisco in exchange.

Barria, who was expected to begin the year in the Angels rotation, was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday in a surprising move. The 22-year-old pitched well as a rookie, posting a 3.41 ERA through 26 starts, and was having a strong spring.

Stratton, 28, is out of options, so if he didn't make the Opening Day roster, he would have to pass through waivers before he could be sent outright to the Minors.

"Very tough [decision to send Barria down]. Great kid, great competitor," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I'm pretty confident we'll see him at some point soon."

A first-round Draft pick in 2012, Stratton appeared in 48 games (36 starts) over three seasons with the Giants, going 15-14 with a 4.63 ERA. He led the Giants in wins last season (10).

"He brings pitching depth. He's a staring pitcher with Major League experience," Ausmus said. "You're going to need at least a dozen starting pitchers over the course of the season. He helps us accomplish that."

With the Angels scheduled to travel to Oakland on Wednesday for this week's Opening Series against the A's, Stratton remained in the Bay Area on Tuesday rather than traveling to Los Angeles for the exhibition-season finale against the Dodgers.

Jerez -- who was acquired along with right-hander Ty Buttrey when the Angels dealt Ian Kinsler to the Red Sox prior to last year's Trade Deadline -- heads to San Francisco after a brief stint with the Angels. He made 17 appearances in the big leagues last season, allowing 14 earned runs in 15 innings (6.00 ERA), and spent the bulk of the year pitching at the Triple-A level in Pawtucket and Salt Lake City.

Jennings released

The Angels will open the season without a left-hander in their bullpen after releasing Dan Jennings on Tuesday.

Jennings was with the Angels on a Minor League deal and appeared to be in position to make the Opening Day roster as the lone lefty reliever in camp. The 31-year-old veteran is coming off a strong 2018 campaign with Milwaukee in which he posted a 3.22 ERA over 72 games (64 1/3 innings).

Barring another roster move, the Angels appear primed to head into the regular season with an eight-man bullpen consisting of closer Cody Allen and right-handers Justin Anderson, Luke Bard, Cam Bedrosian, Ty Buttrey, Luis Garcia, Hansel Robles and Noe Ramirez. Of that group, only Bard, Buttrey and Anderson have options remaining.

"[Jennings] pitched fine. There's a plus that he was a lefty, but ultimately we've got to go with the seven or eight best relievers that will help us win games," Ausmus said. "If we need a righty to get a lefty out, then we'll have one that has kind of been picked that we can lean on. And I've been part of teams where we didn't have lefties in the bullpen before, so it's certainly not unheard of."

Among the Angels’ current relievers, Robles has the best numbers against left-handed batters, holding them to a .194 average compared to a .231 mark vs. right-handed batters. Allen also has better splits against lefties (.205) than righties (.227), and Anderson (.215 vs. lefties) could be another option.

Angels drop Freeway Series

The Angels wrapped up Spring Training with a 9-2 loss to the Dodgers in the Freeway Series finale on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, giving them a 15-16 record in exhibition play. Most of the Angels' regulars were out of the game by the fourth inning, calling it an early night ahead of Wednesday’s travel day to Oakland for Opening Day.

"We're ready to get this thing going,” said Mike Trout.

"We've crossed all the T's, dotted all the I’s,” Ausmus said. “These guys are itching to play at this point. Something meaningful rather than preparatory games where no one cares about the wins, losses or statistics very much, especially if you're a veteran player."

When asked to evaluate the Angels’ spring in his first year at the helm as manager, Ausmus keyed in on his players’ concentration and effort level.

“The performances are going to ebb and flow, you're going to go through slumps, you're going to go through hot streaks," Ausmus said, “but throughout the Spring Training in Tempe and this Freeway Series, those two things, the concentration and effort, have been outstanding.”

Perhaps the most important accomplishment of the Angels’ spring was locking down their superstar for the next 12 years, ending speculation about his future.

"I can just go out there and play," Trout said. "Knowing where I'm going to be the next 12 years, it's a good feeling. But I've still got to go out there and perform and play.”

Worth noting

• Ausmus said Shohei Ohtani is expected to progress to the next step in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, taking batting practice outdoors, “very soon.”

• The Angels' No. 8 prospect, first baseman Matt Thaiss, came off the bench Tuesday and batted 3-for-3 with a run scored. As for whether he's ready to make the leap to the big leagues ...

"That's the million dollar question with a lot of different players," Ausmus said. "He certainly has come a long way, especially with the bat in the last two years, and he's improved at first. ... I wouldn't be shocked if we saw him at some point, but you never know if a guy is ready until you turn on the bright lights and see him on the big stage."

Up next

For a third consecutive year, the Angels will travel to Oakland for an Opening Day matchup against the A's at 1:07 p.m. PT on Thursday. Trevor Cahill will take the hill for his second career Opening Day assignment, facing his former team. It'll be his first time pitching at Oakland Coliseum as a visitor.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com.