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OC Register: Angels’ Justin Anderson striving for more efficiency

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Justin Anderson wants to pitch less.

No, not less frequently. But he is trying to figure out a way to refine his repertoire to get quicker outs.

“I’m trying to get in and out as quick as I can,” the Angels second-year reliever said. “There are times when I’m out there a lot. That’s one of my biggest flaws. They’ve told me that. I know that. Getting in and out has always been my goal, but I’ve hit these speed bumps. I hope this new adjustment will help me fine-tune that.”

Anderson, 26, made a splash in the majors last season, coming from nowhere to pitching in high-leverage spots.

At times, he looked like he a potential closer, and he recorded four saves. At other times, though, he struggled with his control and walks and deep counts limited his efficiency.

Anderson walked 40 batters in 55 1/3 innings, which is about double the acceptable rate. His 67 strikeouts helped him avoid more serious trouble from the walks. He had a 4.07 ERA.

That added up to 4.34 pitches per plate appearance, significantly higher than the major league average of 3.89.

Anderson’s fastball averaged 98 mph and his slider has sharp, late life. When hitters swung at his slider, they missed 53 percent of the time. Across the majors, hitters missed 35 percent of the sliders they swung at.

“I think everyone knows he’s got a devastating swing-and-miss type slider,” Manager Brad Ausmus said. “It boils down to fastball command, making that fastball useful. Putting that fastball in spots that are beneficial to him. Spots that hitters can’t make good contact, or they swing and miss. If he can improve his fastball command, he can be a legit back-end reliever.”

Anderson said he and new pitching coach Doug White have worked on cleaning up his delivery to be more efficient.

“He had a good program this winter where was working on fastball command in different locations,” Ausmus said. “He’s carrying that into bullpens here and we’re waiting for that to translate into games.”

Anderson has worked four innings so far this spring, with one run allowed, two walks and five strikeouts.

He is a leading candidate for a spot in the opening day bullpen, although not a lock because of his command issues and the fact he has options.

KEEP IT SLOW

Despite Shohei Ohtani’s smooth rehab, Ausmus said Ohtani will not be back before their previously stated target of May.

“That won’t happen,” the Angels manager said Saturday morning, a day after Ohtani began to throw. “I just don’t see that happening. There’s a program in place to get him ready by sometime in May. You have to get at-bats to start DHing for a major league club.”

Ohtani, who had Tommy John surgery Oct. 1, is in the midst of a unique rehab, because he’s trying to come back as a hitter without compromising his future as a pitcher.

Ohtani played catch Friday, and he’ll continue to throw every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Ausmus said. He also has continued to hit off a tee and soft toss.

The next step is taking normal batting practice in the cage from a coach throwing overhand. After that, he’ll do the same thing on the field, and then he’ll progress to facing live pitching.

When Ohtani is ready to face live pitching, he may be facing Angels minor league pitchers, playing in extended spring or perhaps even in regular minor league games, Ausmus said. Because Ohtani only has to hit and run the bases, and not play a position, the Angels can get him most of the work he needs without the formality of a regular-season minor league game.

Ausmus said they’ll “see where we’re at in terms of schedules and his schedule. We’ll figure it out.”

SORE SHOULDERS

José Suarez, one of the Angels top pitching prospects, has been slowed with shoulder discomfort, Ausmus said Saturday. Suarez pitched a perfect inning in his only spring training outing, on Feb. 27, but he has not pitched in a game since.

Ausmus added that Suarez has thrown as recently as a few days ago, so they don’t believe it’s serious.

“We’re in a situation where there’s no rush to get him ready, so we’re holding him off from throwing until he’s symptom free,” Ausmus said.

Miguel Almonte, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, has not thrown in any games because he’s also had a shoulder issue, Ausmus said. Almonte has appeared in 19 big league games, including eight with the Angels last year. He was designated for assignment over the winter but then re-signed to a minor-league deal.

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