Left-hander José Suarez struggled as a rookie last year with a 7.11 ERA in 81 innings, and those troubles have carried over into his first two starts of 2020.
Suarez was hit hard by the Astros, allowing five runs over just one-plus inning in a 6-3 loss in the first seven-inning game of a doubleheader against the Astros on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Jaime Barria followed Suarez in relief and fared better, with one run allowed on one hit over five innings, and he could replace Suarez in the rotation. Suarez, 22, was optioned to the club’s alternate site in Long Beach after the game.
“I just talked to him, and this kid is gonna be really good,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It hasn't gone his way so far. I know nobody wants to hear that, but it's true. He's very talented.”
Suarez was coming off a rough season debut against the Giants on Thursday, surrendering five runs over 1 1/3 innings, including two in the first inning. It was a similar theme for Suarez against Houston, as he gave up all five runs in a disastrous opening frame. It caused him to fall to 0-2 with a 38.57 ERA in 2 2/3 innings.
Suarez retired the first hitter he faced on Tuesday, but he then gave up back-to-back singles to Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. Shortstop David Fletcher made an incredible diving stop on a hard-hit grounder from Correa, but Tommy La Stella couldn't scoop the throw at second base. Yuli Gurriel then hit a weak grounder down the third-base line, and Suarez made an errant throw to first that got by Albert Pujols to allow two runs to score.
“I just told him that the biggest mistake you made is throwing that ball to first base,” Maddon said. “If he just put that in his pocket, and then it's bases loaded and he had a chance to work out of it. Once that occurs, I'm sure his mind began racing some more, so that was the one part of that game that I would like for him to have done differently. And I think you might have seen a different result.”
Suarez couldn't escape the jam from there, issuing a walk to Kyle Tucker before striking out Taylor Jones for the second out. But Josh Reddick singled to bring home a run and Martin Maldonado walked to load the bases. Suarez gave up a two-run single to Jack Mayfield on a first-pitch sinker to cap the scoring.
Suarez came back out for the second, but after walking the first two batters, he was replaced by Barria, who was called up Tuesday as the club's 29th man for the doubleheader. Barria was able to get out of the second inning unscathed and pitched well the rest of the way.
The right-hander helped save the bullpen and was sharp for a second straight outing in relief after giving up two runs over 4 1/3 innings in relief against San Francisco on Tuesday. Barria struck out four and lowered his ERA to 2.89 on the year. Maddon, however, wouldn’t commit to Barria being in the rotation just yet.
“We haven't established that,” Maddon said. “He has done a great job. Thought he was really confident. He's very much under control, very much in the moment. He’s a great, confident young man, makes good pitches. Overall, he did really well. He had a good slider, commanded his fastball, really in control what of what he wanted to do."
Barria reached 74 pitches, and he relied heavily on his slider, throwing it more than half the time. Barria threw his slider 39 times and registered eight swings and misses with it. His slider is his best pitch, and he’ll need to build on this outing and keep his slider command sharp. He’s looking to get back to his form as a rookie in 2018, when he posted a 3.41 ERA in 26 starts before struggling last year with a 6.42 ERA in 82 2/3 innings.
“I feel like my mentality is way different this year,” Barria said through an interpreter. “Last year, I would have a bad outing and put pressure on myself. This year, I kinda feel like my old self.”