Julio Teheran will be on the mound for the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night against the Oakland A's in Anaheim, Calif., hoping that he can improve on his only other start this season.
Behind the plate to guide him will be catcher Max Stassi.
Stassi is mostly known for his defensive skills and his ability to call a game. But Stassi, who was acquired by the Angels in a trade with the Houston Astros last year, has provided an unexpected offensive bonus this year.
Stassi, who has split the catching duties with Jason Castro, is second on the team in home runs (four), behind only Mike Trout (five), despite Trout having nearly twice as many at-bats.
Stassi also is second on the team in RBIs with 10, one less than Trout.
In 11 games (seven starts), Stassi is hitting .296 with an OPS of 1.096, tops on the club.
Stassi had off-season surgery on his right hip and tweaked his mechanics in the batter's box. The combination of feeling better physically and adjusting his swing has been the difference.
"The short version would be I'm hunched over a little more over the plate," Stassi said. "Kind of a posture thing, so I'm able to get into my back hip and keep my posture level, versus getting too uphill. My lead arm is now down, so I can work directly towards the ball. And then, I'm just trying to rotate as much as I can."
His primary focus on Monday, however, will be to help Teheran improve after the right-hander allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings on Aug. 5 against the Seattle Mariners.
Teheran missed the first two weeks of the season after a positive COVID-19 test and was limited to 52 pitches in his first start.
Teheran, who is 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two career starts against Oakland, will have to face a red-hot A's team that has won nine in a row, led by a resurgent hitter in left fielder Khris Davis.
Similar to Stassi, Davis dealt with a hip injury last year - Davis bruised his left hip running into a railing while catching a foul ball.
It affected his mechanics the last half of last season and into this season, which he began by going 1 for 22. Working with Oakland's hitting coaches, Davis moved his hands farther back and higher up in his stance, and it has paid off.
"We've just been working nonstop trying to figure out what is going to work," Davis said. "I think when I got hurt, I started getting set up in a different way. My body just wasn't adjusting to that injury. When I put my hands further back, it just kind of freed thing up."
Davis has five hits in his last 14 at-bats, including a home run and a double.
Sean Manaea, who will be on the mound for Oakland, is off to a rough start, going 0-2 with an 8.03 ERA, including a loss to the Angels on July 25 (4 2/3 innings, four runs, five hits). He is 2-4 with a 4.66 ERA in nine career starts against the Angels.
--Field Level Media