The Angels opened the regular season Thursday night against possibly the most responsible team in baseball by approving the use of a handheld device that transmits signals from catcher to pitcher in an effort to eliminate backboard theft and to speed up matches.
The Houston Astros, of course, were penalized for using a center field camera and video monitor near the dugout to steal signs and hit a trash can near the dugout to relay pitches to batters during their run at the 2017 World Series title.
Both Angels catchers used the device, called PitchCom, in the Freeway Series against the Dodgers, Kurt Suzuki with left-hander Jose Suarez on Monday night and Max Stassi with right-hander Michael Lorenzen on Tuesday night.
But Stassi didn’t wear the device against the Astros Thursday night, and Suzuki isn’t sure when he’ll feel comfortable enough to use it in the regular season. Some teams experimented with it during spring training, but MLB didn’t approve its use until Tuesday.
“I think it depends on the pitchers,” Suzuki said before Thursday night’s game. “We are open to it. I mean, the Dodger series was literally our first time using it. It’s a bit of a work in progress, but we don’t object to it.
The system includes a forearm sleeve, worn by the catcher, which resembles a remote control with nine buttons for pitch and location. Both the pitcher and the catcher have receivers in their caps, and three other outfielders—usually the two infielders and the center fielder—may wear receivers.
“You can’t pick signs with it, obviously,” Suzuki said, “but it’s hard to remember all the numbers [and matching them] with reconnaissance reports.
Angels manager Joe Maddon is encouraging his pitchers and receivers to embrace the new technology so they can soon use it in games.
“I think it’s the best thing we’ve done in MLB so far in terms of all the different attempts we’ve made to make the game more interesting,” Maddon said. “Anything that adds to the pace of our game is where we need to go. Not the length of the game. Leave it alone. Just the pace with which it happens.
The shortened 3.5-week spring training may have claimed its first Angels casualty when left-hander Patrick Sandoval’s scheduled Friday night departure was pushed back to Tuesday against Miami due to arm fatigue. Left-hander Reid Detmers will pitch against the Astros on Friday.
“I built myself pretty quickly and just didn’t bounce back like I hoped,” Sandoval said. “It’s a little more painful than usual, but I’m getting through it. I will be ready for Tuesday.
Was the lockout-shortened camp a factor in his condition?
“I don’t want to spell it out,” Sandoval said, “but it could be.”
Taylor Ward, who thought he would get most of the playing time in right field, was placed on the 10-day injured list with a minor left groin sprain he suffered in the final. Tuesday night’s exhibition against the Dodgers. Ward said the injury was “nothing serious” and he didn’t expect to be out for more than 10 days.
Mike Trout was back in the lineup and feeling “much better” Thursday night after missing the last two exhibition games against the Dodgers with a nasty stomach ache that floored him shortly after the game night against the Dodgers at Angel Stadium.
“I had dinner 45 minutes after the game, and things hit the fan,” the centre-back said before the game. “I didn’t sleep much that night. I won’t go into details, but it wasn’t great. I don’t think I’ve been this sick since I was little.
“Then Monday I was in bed all day. It was like having 30-40 carries in an NFL football game. I was completely beaten. But I felt better on Tuesday, I came here and did some exercise, I hydrated. I was working on [Wednesday] and I feel good now.