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Stratton easing into relief role with Bucs

@SarahWexler32
August 13, 2019

ANAHEIM -- When Chris Stratton entered in the sixth inning of the Pirates’ 10-2 win on Monday night at Angel Stadium, he had more than preserving a lead on his mind. Facing his former team for the first time since he was designated for assignment, Stratton wanted to show them

ANAHEIM -- When Chris Stratton entered in the sixth inning of the Pirates’ 10-2 win on Monday night at Angel Stadium, he had more than preserving a lead on his mind. Facing his former team for the first time since he was designated for assignment, Stratton wanted to show them exactly what they were missing.

“You always want to pitch well wherever you are, and I feel like when I was here, I didn’t really get to put that on display,” said Stratton, who hurled three scoreless innings. “Kind of bittersweet, honestly. I got to prove to them that I could do it. But at the end of the day, you’re just trying to do everything you can to help your team win, so I was glad I was able to help us out.”

Stratton’s tenure in Anaheim was brief, just seven appearances (five starts) over the course of the first month of the season. After the DFA, the Pirates purchased Stratton’s contract and proceeded to convert him into a full-time reliever.

The results have been marked. Stratton’s ERA with the Angels was 8.59, and his WHIP was 2.08, with batters posting a 1.000 OPS against him. In 19 games (35 1/3 innings) with the Pirates, he’s got a 2.55 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP with a .707 OPS allowed. His strikeout rate is up from 15.3 percent to 24.5 percent, and his walk rate is way down, from 12.5 percent to 3.5 percent.

“Stratton’s added value since he’s been here,” said manager Clint Hurdle. “[Monday] was just an example of what he can do. He pitched [Sunday] … and then to come back and throw three, it’s not very often, anywhere.”

Transitioning from starting to relieving isn’t an easy process, by any means, but it’s something Stratton has taken in stride, understanding the requisite tweaks in approach.

“It’s still pitching,” said Stratton. “But the routine of being a starter and knowing when you’re going to throw is nice at times. As a reliever, you've got to be mentally locked in every game. Getting adjusted to that was a little different. But … talking to the guys in the ‘pen, knowing what situations to get loose, and to stay ready, is really helpful.”

In addition to the adjustment in mindset, one key mechanical change has helped make a difference for Stratton, and that’s working out of the stretch more.

“I think one big thing for me is I haven’t really thrown from the windup since I’ve been here, I’ve only been in the stretch,” said Stratton. “A windup is just an extension of your stretch, and I think that I was so out of whack when I was here with the Angels, that just simplifying everything and being from the stretch the whole time really helped me out.”

Stratton honors Skaggs

As much as the game itself, there was one other thing on Stratton’s mind when he took the mound on Monday: the memory of his friend and former teammate, Tyler Skaggs. Before pitching, Stratton knelt down to write something in honor of the late left-hander.

“Just his number,” Stratton said. “Just anything to commemorate him and the great life that he had, and the impact he had on everybody around him. You can tell, still, today, just talking with any of the guys [on the Angels], it’s still kind of heavy over them. The only thing that can heal that is time, but I don’t think anybody will ever forget him.”

Minor League transactions

• Catcher Francisco Cervelli, who’s working his way back from a concussion that has sidelined him since May 26, had his rehab assignment transferred from Double-A Altoona to Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. According to Hurdle, Cervelli will stay there for the remainder of his recovery.

“It’s a better level of competition,” said Hurdle. “This is about commitment, it’s about conviction. It’s not about comfort, who’s playing closer to home, he’s well aware of that. He had a good first game -- he said he felt like a kid. And I said, ‘That’s how you’re supposed to feel.’”

In his first rehab game with Altoona on Monday, Cervelli caught seven innings and went 1-for-3 with a double and a hit-by-pitch.

• Right-hander Cody Ponce, the prospect acquired from the Brewers for Jordan Lyles, was promoted to Triple-A. Ponce gave up four runs on three hits and a walk while striking out six in six innings over three appearances for Altoona.

• The Pirates transferred right-hander Rookie Davis from his rehab assignment with Indianapolis, reinstated him from the 60-day injured list, and optioned him to Triple-A. Davis had been dealing with a right middle finger blister.

• Right-hander Tom Koehler has ended his rehab assignment with the GCL Pirates and was transferred from the Triple-A roster to Altoona. Koehler is recovering from shoulder surgery, having last pitched in 2017 as a reliever for the Blue Jays after several seasons in the Marlins’ rotation.

The Pirates signed Koehler to a Minor League contract last offseason that includes a club option for next year, which is worth $1.25 million with another $1.25 million in incentives, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Sarah Wexler is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @SarahWexler32.