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Angels’ Max Stassi has improved at the plate with a new approach since the All-Star break

Angels’ Max Stassi has improved at the plate with a new approach since the All-Star break

OAKLAND — Max Stassi has finally been looking like the hitter the Angels expected when they inked him to an extension in the spring.

After producing a .628 OPS in the first half, Stassi has a .768 mark since the All-Star break. That’s close to the .784 OPS he posted in 2020-21.

That combination of hitting and defense behind the plate is why the Angels signed the 31-year-old catcher to a three-year, $ 17.5-million deal that takes him through 2024, with an option for 2025.

Stassi said the improvement is because he’s changed his focus at the plate.

“I would say I’m just making a conscious effort to stay on plane more out in front, instead of kind of losing my barrel behind me,” Stassi said. “If you look at all the damage that’s done, it’s in front of the plate. And if you’re not on plane out in front, you really don’t have a chance to really drive balls. It’s going to be pull side ground balls or flares to right. I’ve been doing a lot of work with the hitting coaches. They’ve been great.”

The hot streak has lifted Stassi’s overall OPS for the season to .659, which is close to the major league average for a catcher (.666).

Stassi has continued to rank well behind the plate in terms of pitch-framing. He’s 12th among 45 catchers who handled 1,000 pitches called by the umpire this season.

Manager Phil Nevin has valued Stassi to the point that he’s played him slightly more often than Joe Maddon did. Nevin used Stassi for a day game after a night game on Wednesday.

The grind of catching means teams need two competent catchers, which is why Stassi did not feel threatened by the Angels acquisition of catcher Logan O’Hoppe in last week’s trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. O’Hoppe, who is currently in Double-A, is now the Angels’ No. 1 prospect. He is expected to make the big leagues well before Stassi’s contract is finished, perhaps even next year.

“I think it’s awesome,” Stassi said. “I think you can’t ever have enough catching. Obviously, catchers can go down. One pitch you can go down for the rest of the year. I know the catching coordinator with the Phillies too, who has worked with him and helped him out. He’s told me nothing but great things about him. I’m looking forward to meeting Logan and helping him along the way. I’m getting to the point my career where I’m ready to kind of take on that role of helping a younger guy. I’ve been through a lot my career.”

BOOS FOR GOOSE

Phil Gosselin was loudly booed by the fans at the Oakland Coliseum when he came to the plate in the eighth inning on Tuesday night.

“I think that everyone was here to see one guy last night and when he came out they weren’t happy,” Gosselin said on Wednesday morning. “So I got a laugh out of it.”

Gosselin was hitting in Shohei Ohtani’s spot. Ohtani had been hit in the foot by a comebacker in the third inning. It began to get more sore by the seventh, so Nevin took him out as both the pitcher and the DH. Ohtani was then sent for an X-ray, which came back clean. Ohtani was back in the lineup on Wednesday.

Nevin understood the reaction when Gosselin came to the plate.

“I thought they were saying ‘Goose,’” Nevin quipped, “until the people over the dugout started yelling at me. … We just wanted to get (Ohtani) out of there just to be sure.”

What made the situation even more frustrating for many fans is that Ohtani’s spot came up with the bases loaded.

“I said to (A’s catcher Sean Murphy), ‘You’re definitely not booing that I’m hitting instead of Shohei,’” Gosselin said. “I think everybody wants Shohei up with the bases loaded, myself included.”

Gosselin hit a ground ball to shortstop and the A’s got the force at the plate.

PITCHING PLANS

Ohtani’s next start will be on Monday against the Mariners in Anaheim. The Angels are keeping Ohtani pitching every sixth day, even though they have an off day on Thursday. José Suarez will flip places with Ohtani, starting on Tuesday against the Mariners.

Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and Tucker Davidson will start this weekend against the Minnesota Twins.

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP Patrick Sandoval, 3-4, 3.41) vs. Twins (TBD), Friday, 6:38 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM


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