Angels' José Suarez reflects on struggles and reasons for DFA: 'I have to figure it out'

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The last time Angels fans heard from José Suarez, it was following an outing where he allowed five earned runs in one inning against the Giants. It was June 16, and his ERA ballooned to 8.15. He subsequently failed to show any accountability after yet another awful outing.

“I feel like I made pretty good pitches,” he said. “They put good contact on it, and I can’t control that.”

The Angels DFA’d him the next day. He went unclaimed, and set out to Triple-A Salt Lake in the hopes of restarting a once-promising young career. Suarez spoke with The Athletic recently and was far more willing to accept accountability for his plight.

“It’s not a surprise for me, because I know I wasn’t pitching really good,” Suarez said. “(When) they told me I have to go to Salt Lake, that’s fine, because I have to figure it out. What I did wrong, what I did well.”

Suarez was once a top arm in the Angels system. And he performed quite well in the rotation during the second half of 2021 and throughout 2022. He was an above-average MLB starter at just 24 years old.

Two years later, it has all come crashing down for the 26-year-old southpaw. When a player is DFA’d, it means the team is willing to let them walk. It means that they’re no longer in that team’s plans. The Angels held onto Suarez for a long time out of concern he’d be claimed off waivers. Eventually, they decided his performance wasn’t worth the roster spot.

The Angels will surely keep a close eye on Suarez in the hopes he can work his way back into their plans. But for now, that will be on him.

“It’s hard for me this year because I’ve never been like that,” Suarez said. “Last year I got hurt, and this year is not good for me. I’m here right now, in Triple-A Salt Lake. And I’ll try to figure it out, and what I did wrong.”

Suarez struggled in his first Triple-A outing. He allowed five earned runs in three innings. He said he wasn’t too concerned with the results, however. He wanted to get his footing after not pitching for a few weeks and work on areas he needed to improve.

He said there was concern he was tipping his pitches in the big leagues, specifically with his glove placement. He said he started his glove higher up this year. In years past, his glove had been closer to his waist.

Suarez believes having the glove higher could have created a pitch tip that he wasn’t aware of. His glove was back at his waist, he said, for his first Triple-A appearance this year.

“We try to simplify his stuff,” said Salt Lake pitching coach Shane Loux. “We don’t want him throwing seven pitches. We want him to focus on a couple that are really good. And then we’ll go into stamina, and build that stamina back up. Try to make him make himself an option again if they need some help.”

As a result, Suarez said he wasn’t surprised to not get claimed. He wasn’t pitching well enough. He said he wants to prove to the Angels that he’ll be worthy of a call-up once again.

“I have to work and figure it out. Figure out my stuff, my pitching. And when I pitch really good, I think I’m coming back. For me, it’s pretty good. My mind is pretty clear. I can focus on what I do.”

Chase Silseth pulled from Triple-A rotation

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Chase Silseth posted a 6.75 ERA in two April starts for the Angels. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

Silseth was considered one of the Angels’ up-and-coming starting pitchers at the beginning of the season. He won the fifth starter job in the spring. And it seemed like he’d finally settled into a solidified role.

Just three months later, he’s been injured, optioned to Triple A, and now pulled from the rotation as he works through struggles and his recovery from elbow inflammation.

“I’m just trying to get back there, man,” Silseth said. “It feels like there’s been a lot of adversity coming my way. … I think I’m just trying too hard to get back to where I was. Just getting frustrating, not getting back there right away.”

Silseth, as he noted, has dealt with a lot of adversity. He was beaned in the head with a throw last August. He suffered the elbow injury this year. He’s bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation in his career and often had trouble maintaining velocity during outings.

He’s currently out of the Bees’ rotation, though the hope is that it’ll be temporary. He suffered a since-resolved minor setback from his elbow, he said. And the results have been poor. The 24-year-old righty has a 9.50 ERA over 18 innings. That includes 13 walks, 10 strikeouts, and five homers allowed.

“It’s good because I’m learning a lot about myself. It’s aggravating that I can’t be helping the team up there, but it is what it is. But you’ve got to go through this adversity somehow.”

He’s seen his velocity dip a bit. He said he firmly believes in his ability to figure that out, and move past the injury anxieties that have forced him to pause his season in Triple A.

The team was checking up on him a good amount during his rehab outings, Silseth said. But he hasn’t heard much recently, since he was optioned. He gets it though. He needs to figure things out to get back prominently on the team’s radar.

“When I deserve to be there, then it gets a little frustrating,” Silseth said at the lack of communication. “But right now, it’s just going through my learning pains. I feel like I get one every year.”

He’s unsure if that head injury has impacted him at all. At times he’s felt great. Other times, he hasn’t. More importantly, he believes he’s lost his bulldog mentality. His confidence has waned, understandably.

But there’s undoubtedly still a good pitcher in there. It was less than one year ago that Silseth made four consecutive starts against the Yankees, Braves, Mariners and Astros to the tune of a 1.59 ERA over 22 2/3 innings. It’s in there. He just has to find it.

“That’s the most aggravating and frustrating part about it. It’s there. And I’ve showed it, a lot,” Silseth said. “But to stay and get consistency, you need to be doing that a lot. I think that’s the most frustrating part. But that’s the growing pains of it.

“You’ve got to stay within yourself, take it day-by-day. Rather than overnight trying to get everything back, especially when it’s not there.”

(Top photo of José Suarez: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

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