LOS ANGELES — Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki was sending pitches so fast through the new signaling device that he doubted some of the messages he sent pitcher José Suarez on Monday night against the Dodgers.
“I told you the pitch,” Suzuki recalled Tuesday in the clubhouse.
Suarez asked for pitches because he couldn’t hear the device that was placed under his cap toward the end of his outing. But there’s a simple solution for the anti-sign-stealing technology that’s also meant to increase game speed.
“I’m assuming if I turn up the volume a little more, I’ll be able to hear,” Suarez said in Spanish.
Despite the technical difficulties, Suarez and Suzuki raved about the new technology and approved Major League Baseball’s decision on Tuesday to give teams the option of using the signaling device during the regular season.
“It speeds the game up, but it also makes you feel comfortable because you feel like no one is going to steal your signs and it’s also much easier for the catcher,” said Suarez, who had his hearing device on Spanish mode.
The Venezuelan left-hander decided to use the signaling device for the first time in a game because he had trouble reading the signs on Suzuki’s fingers. Everything went smoothly until the crowd got louder during the exhibition game at Dodger Stadium. Fans will be louder during the regular season, but Suarez doesn’t see that being an issue and plans to use the device again.
“I have no issues with it,” Suarez said. “It doesn’t bother me at all and this way is easier for me than using the signs. I was using the signs because I couldn’t hear, but this is much easier. … I’ll switch sides and maybe that can help with the hearing.”
Suzuki also has the option of hearing the pitches to confirm that he sent the right signal, but he’s concerned about hitters eavesdropping. Catchers use a wrist pad with buttons to signal to pitchers. Up to three teammates in addition to the catcher and pitcher have access to the signals.
Angels manager Joe Maddon is also on board with the new technology and expects to see more players using it during the season.
“Compared to some other things, that to me is probably the best thing that has come out so far is that device,” Maddon said. “Combine that with a pace clock at some point, that’s the change you’re looking for in the game, I think. The other stuff isn’t necessarily interesting, but that, once I got into it and I started to understand it and watch it, that makes all the sense in the world to me.
“You don’t have to worry about the dude on second base, nobody watching on TV, no trash cans banged, whatever it might be, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. A lot of your pre-series meeting is absorbed in trying to cover those moments.”
It was a night of many firsts for Suarez, who is known for operating at a slow pace during his starts. He also returned to the mound against the Dodgers after being pulled in the third inning.
Suarez had mixed reviews about re-entering a game, which is only allowed in spring training, but he’s on board with the new signaling technology if he remembers to turn up the volume.
TROUT FEELING BETTER
Mike Trout wasn’t available for the second consecutive game because of illness, but Maddon said the All-Star center fielder felt better Tuesday and is on track to play in their season opener against Houston on Thursday night.
“He’s good,” Maddon said. “He’s getting over it. Whatever it was, it got him pretty fast and furious, but he’s feeling better today. … I’d be surprised if he didn’t (play Thursday).”
Trout wasn’t at Dodger Stadium for the finale of the Freeway Series, but he took batting practice at Angel Stadium earlier Tuesday.
OHTANI LIKELY TO LEADOFF
Maddon said there’s a strong chance that Shohei Ohtani will be the leadoff hitter Thursday against the Houston Astros, despite already being the Opening Day starter.
Maddon is comfortable with the reigning American League MVP handling both roles because the game is at home. That could change for road games, but Maddon will have more flexibility to move Ohtani in the lineup with a healthy Anthony Rendon and Trout.
“I’m sure I’ll be pitched to a little differently depending on whether they’re hitting in front of me or behind me, but for the most part I’m trying to do the same as last year,” Ohtani said Tuesday, through a translator. “Not trying to change too much.”
Infielder David Fletcher returned to the lineup after missing the past three games because of hip tightness. Fletcher batted ninth and played shortstop on Tuesday.