Jaime Barría has not been in this position in a while.
The Angels’ right-hander made a spot start in the first game of a doubleheader against a strong Mariners team in Seattle on Aug. 6, 2022. He limited the Mariners to two runs in 4 2/3 innings. It was the only time last season he wasn’t used out of the bullpen.
It wasn’t always like this throughout Barría’s career, though. He was a starter before last season, but the Angels preferred him as a reliever.
On Monday, with the Angels needing a starter after deciding Chase Silseth was better suited in the bullpen, Barría was given the ball to start a game once again.
“When I told him, he had a big smile on his face,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said after Sunday’s game. “He’s ready to go.”
Barría wasted no time, giving up two hits and no runs while striking out six in five innings against the Boston Red Sox in the Angels’ 2-1 victory on Monday. It was a brilliant performance for his first start of the season. His outing included three one-two-three innings, and with good defense, he kept his pitch count down.
Whether the spot will be Barría’s to keep depended on his performance. After Sunday’s game, Nevin offered an explanation regarding that spot in the rotation.
“As it lines up the next few times, there’s gonna be some extra days in between starts with an off day,” Nevin said. “We felt like it was better suited for Jaime to do that, rather than Sil. Not having Sil sit for nine days before his next start to keep the other guys [in the rotation] on.”
In four relief outings, Silseth had two stellar two-inning appearances. Nevin and the Angels are hoping Silseth can become one of the bridge relievers to their high-leverage pitchers, Matt Moore and Carlos Estévez.
Barría has filled multiple roles: as a starter, middle reliever and closer. He’s been even-keeled through every opportunity.
“That’s why you can put him in any spot,” Nevin said before Monday’s game. “No moment’s too big.”
In Barría’s first relief outing this season, April 4 at Seattle, he gave up five hits, including two home runs, and four runs in 3 2/3 innings, leaving his earned-run average at 9.82. Since then, Barría has been one of the most reliable arms in the bullpen, coming into Monday with a 1.96 ERA in 10 outings.
Going into Monday’s start, Barría’s arm was not so stretched out. The most pitches he had thrown this season was 58, in a four-inning relief outing against the Texas Rangers on May 5. So Nevin was not expecting him to go deep into Monday’s game, putting more emphasis on Barría working as many innings as he could.
By the time Barría finished the fourth inning, on 53 pitches, there was still no one warming up. Aaron Loup began getting loose in the middle of the fifth inning, replacing Barría to start the sixth.
The Angels’ lack of pitching depth this season has proved to be a bit of an issue. José Suarez’s significant drop in production before he was placed on the 15-day injured list (May 8) because of a left shoulder injury put the Angels in an even trickier situation.
The initial plan in Suarez’s absence was to start Silseth in his spot. Silseth was starting in triple A to begin this season before getting called back to the big league team to join the bullpen when Austin Warren went on the IL because of Tommy John surgery.
Having gone deep into games already, he was the logical next choice. Silseth gave up four earned runs in 31/3 innings in his next start in Baltimore and took the loss.
Barría’s performance Monday certainly will give the Angels something to think about.