Despite pitch limit, Sandoval impressing Halos

Left-hander allows 3 runs in 3 1/3 innings in loss to Indians

September 10th, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Angels rookie left-hander is trying to make the most out of his starts this season, even though they'll be abbreviated the rest of the way in an effort to preserve his arm.

The 22-year-old was limited to 3 1/3 innings and 61 pitches in a 6-2 loss to the Indians on Monday night, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts. It was the second straight outing that Sandoval was on a restriction of roughly 60 pitches, as he gave up one run over 3 1/3 innings on 52 pitches against the A's last Wednesday. He fell to 0-3 with a 5.28 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 29 innings this year.

“He had a little trouble throwing strikes the first inning-plus, but he settled down,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “He still competes as well as anyone out there. The stuff is good. He’s on a pitch count now, so he can’t go deep in the game, but I didn’t think he looked bad out there at all.”

So, while Sandoval, the Angels' No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is still looking for his first Major League win, Ausmus has been impressed by the lefty's work ethic and demeanor on the mound, earning a lofty comparison to a young southpaw that Ausmus caught at the end of his playing career while with the Dodgers from 2009-10.

“I don’t know if he was a [Clayton] Kershaw fan growing up, but he reminds me a little of Kershaw with the makeup and delivery,” Ausmus said. “I saw Kersh when he was a very young player, just like Sandoval.”

Sandoval, though, scuffled early against Cleveland, walking leadoff batter Francisco Lindor on five pitches and promptly giving up a single to Oscar Mercado on a second-pitch fastball. After striking out Carlos Santana looking on a fastball, he gave up an RBI single to Yasiel Puig on a slow roller down the first-base line past Albert Pujols. Sandoval then recovered by getting Jordan Luplow to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"You get guys on with free passes and bad things happen," Sandoval said. "I just wasn't locating pitches well. But there were some positives. I was making pitches when I needed to."

Sandoval again walked the leadoff batter in the second, then gave up a two-run homer to Jason Kipnis on a first-pitch fastball over the heart of the plate. Sandoval had been effective at keeping the ball in the park, as it was only the fourth homer he's allowed in seven career outings, and he's never given up more than one in any start.

"Just a first-pitch fastball,” Sandoval said. “Just caught way too much of the middle, and he made me pay for it."

Sandoval settled down from there, retiring seven straight until giving up a one-out single to Kipnis in the fourth. Sandoval reached his pitch limit and was removed for Luke Bard, who threw two innings.

"I feel like I got the most out of that outing, considering the first two innings," Sandoval said. "I think it was all mental. I told myself to throw everything through the zone. Don't get too fancy and do your thing."

Sandoval is lined up to make three more starts this season, and the Angels plan to keep him at roughly 50-60 pitches in those outings. Sandoval has thrown a combined 2,060 pitches between the Minors and the Majors this year after throwing 1,739 pitches in the Minors last year.

The Angels decided they’d rather get Sandoval through the full season -- even in limited starts down the stretch -- than shut him down, because they believe it sets him up better for the future, when he won’t be limited in September.

“It’s more about continuing to get him work through the six-month season,” Ausmus said. “You can tell when he’s on the mound, he has this fire in him. He just wants to get the hitter out, which is tough to teach.”