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.
Getting another chance to start a game was not lost on Barría.
“I think it is important because they gave me the chance,” Barría said in Spanish after the game. “It is what I wanted, to go start the game, and to keep seizing the moment and do my job.”
The next time this spot in the rotation will be needed, keeping in mind Shohei Ohtani’s starts must remain on schedule, will be when the Angels are in Chicago this month.
Nevin said Sunday that Barría’s flexibility as a pitcher would make him better suited for that start instead of having Silseth sit for nine days between starts. Nevin confirmed after Monday’s game that Barría will make that next start.
Silseth kept the focus on the team when he heard he would be returning to the bullpen.
“If that’s where you want me, let’s do it and let’s go get some wins,” he said.
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.
“I come here to do a good job,” Barría said. “I feel like since the Milwaukee series, I’ve been more confident in my pitches and to attack the batters. That is why I had the opportunity to start.”
Barría said his time in the bullpen helped him as a starter.
“I think that it’s important to have good energy from the first pitch to the last and that’s what the bullpen does,” Barría said. “Now that I’m a starter, I have to maintain that mentality.”
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. He finished with 64 pitches Monday.
The Angels’ lack of starting pitching depth this season has proved to be a bit of an issue. José Suarez’s questionable 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 3 1/3 innings in his next start in Baltimore and took the loss.
Barría’s performance Monday will give the Angels something to think about upon Suarez’s return.