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Angels spring notes: Alex Claudio’s hip injury, Junior Guerra late to camp

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Notes from the first day of Angels workouts

MLB: SEP 14 Cardinals at Brewers - Game 2 Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Wednesday is the first workout for Angels pitchers and catchers in Tempe, but a handful of pitchers will be late in reporting. Jaime Barria, José Quijada, Rule 5 pick Jose Alberto Rivera, and non-roster invitee Junior Guerra are all dealing with visa issues, while reliever Alex Claudio has a right hip infection.

The Angels signed Claudio to a one-year, $1.125 million contract in December, hoping to bolster their left-handed relief. Manager Joe Maddon said the timetable for Claudio’s availability is unclear.

“This just came out of the blue, actually, so we’re just waiting for information,” Maddon said on a Zoom press conference Wednesday morning. “I would say it’s going to be at least a week, possibly two. It could even be more than that, I don’t know.”

Claudio held left-handed batters to .212/.257/.364 last year with a 25.7-percent strikeout rate. In his career, lefties have hit .202/.246/.310 against him with a 20.5-percent strikeout rate. His career strikeout rate against righties, for comparison, is 14.2 percent.

In 2020, Angels pitchers saw left-handers hit .237/.319/.449 against them, the fourth-highest slugging percentage and ninth-highest wOBA (.326) allowed.

Notable NRIs

Among the 26 non-roster invitees to Angels camp, perhaps the two most interesting are the two oldest. Both Guerra and outfielder Jon Jay are 36 this season.

Guerra was mostly a starting pitcher for his first three years with the Brewers, posting a 3.84 ERA and 110 ERA+ from 2016-18. But since shifting to full-time relief, Guerra the last two seasons has gotten even better results, with a 3.44 ERA with Milwaukee and Arizona.

Since moving to the bullpen, Guerra has seen a slight uptick in his strikeout rate (21.9 percent the last two years, after 21.4 percent from 2016-18), and he gained about one mile per hour on both his four-seam fastball and two-seamer since 2018.

“He’s got put-away pitches,” Maddon said. “I just love the way, when he gets on a roll, he’s tough to hit, and tough to put the ball in play, because he has weapons for both righties and left-handed hitters.”

As for Jay, he played for Maddon in Chicago in 2017, starting games in all three outfield spots for a Cubs team that got to the NLCS. On Tuesday, Maddon praised Jay and fellow former Cub Dexter Fowler as players who would help set examples for outfielders Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh this spring.

“Jon Jay to me is one of the best guys I’ve had in the clubhouse,” Maddon said Tuesday. “He’s a real clutch player, and he’s feeling really, really good right now.”

Jay hit .296/.374/.375, a 101 wRC+ with the Cubs in 2017, but he’s been well below average since, hitting .260/.318/.333, a 78 wRC+, from 2018-20 with the Royals, White Sox, and Diamondbacks.