After undergoing offseason surgery on his right hip and making some mechanical changes to his swing, Angels catcher Max Stassi has got off to a surprising start and looks like a completely different hitter from last year.
Stassi, 29, has always been considered a strong defender and an elite pitch framer, but he’s struggled offensively in the Majors until this season. Last year, he went just 3-for-42 with the Angels after being acquired at the Trade Deadline in a deal with the Astros. But this season, Stassi already has more homers (four) than hits with the club last year (three in 49 plate appearances) and is batting .333/.400/.905 with nine RBIs in nine games.
“I feel a lot better after my hip surgery I had in the fall,” Stassi said. “My routine is totally different. Mindset, gameplan, everything is a lot better. Obviously, a lot more confidence.”
Stassi had previous experience with assistant hitting coach John Mallee from their time together with the Astros and said he worked hard with fellow hitting coaches Jeremy Reed and Paul Sorrento to simplify his swing.
“The short version would be I'm hunched over a little more over the plate,” Stassi said. “Kind of a posture thing, so I'm able to get into my back hip and keep my posture level, versus getting too uphill. My lead arm is now down, so I can work directly towards the ball. And then, I'm just trying to rotate as much as I can.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon has been impressed by Stassi and he’ll continue to serve in a platoon at catcher with Jason Castro, as Stassi will make most of his starts against lefties. Stassi hit a two-run homer to left against the Mariners on Thursday and just missed a grand slam on a deep drive to right.
“Right now, he could not be shorter or more direct to the baseball,” Maddon said. “Real handsy. Ball to right field, that could have been a grand slam. Going from right field to left field, not just trying to pull the baseball, he’s reacting to it. He’s a good thrower, game-caller behind the plate, lot to like about this man.”
Adell held out of action
Rookie right fielder Jo Adell missed a second straight game with tightness in his right quad. But Maddon expects Adell to be back in the lineup on Saturday.
"He's doing much better today,” Maddon said. “I just got done speaking with him. I fully intend for him to be in the lineup tomorrow. So it's nothing awful it's just something that he's had a little bit of a history with. I do not want it to get worse.”
Sandoval to start Saturday
Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval will be recalled from their alternate site in Long Beach to make his second start of the season on Saturday against the Rangers. Sandoval gave up one earned run over four innings in his season debut against the Mariners on July 28. He’ll be limited to roughly 80-85 pitches, as he had a late start to camp after testing positive for COVID-19 in June.
“He's ready to go,” Maddon said. “I mean, if he's cruising along, you can leave him out there right now. I think we've gotten past the point now to be overly concerned. The last guy was [Julio] Teheran the other day that I had to be a little bit more careful with, but he felt great the next day, so I'm eager to get him deeper into the games. I want to get all these guys more deeply into the game, because that's the first, best way to make your bullpen better."