TORONTO — Matt Thaiss reached a milestone in his development as a catcher Friday night.
“First big-league start and he catches a shutout,” Angels catching coach Bill Haselman said Saturday. “I think it was phenomenal.”
While the Angels’ offensive outburst in Friday’s 12-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays was the top story, manager Phil Nevin and left-hander Reid Detmers also made a point in their postgame comments to give Thaiss credit for his work behind the plate.
It was a big moment for Thaiss after being moved back behind the plate at the start of the 2021 season but never starting a game in the big leagues at catcher until Friday night. He had played the final couple innings in two games, on July 1 and on Thursday afternoon.
Detmers said Thaiss did a particularly good job helping him make some adjustments after a tough first couple innings. Thaiss said all he did was adjust the way he set up to help Detmers get his pitches where he wanted them.
Thaiss had to make one throw to second. The throw wasn’t quite in time, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lost contact with the bag and was called out.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way, but I definitely have a long way to go,” Thaiss said Saturday afternoon. “I’m continuing to work at it. Being around (Max Stassi) and (Kurt Suzuki) certainly helps. Every inning they were talking to me, and before the game, working on scouting, and things like that.”
Hours before Saturday’s game, Thaiss was going over video with Stassi.
It’s been a round-trip journey for the 27-year-old Thaiss. He was a catcher at the University of Virginia, but the Angels moved him to first base immediately after they took him in the first round of the 2016 draft.
He then bounced around a few positions, including second and third, before the Angels finally decided just after spring training in 2021 to move him back to catcher.
Since then, Thaiss has spent almost all of his time at Triple-A. Although he’s still had a few appearances at other positions, he’s been primarily behind the plate.
“He worked so damn hard in spring training,” Haselman said. “Every day we were out there on the machines early catching. And I think you could see it last night. You can see some of the moves he had were really good, bringing the pitches back, especially on the edges. He just needed to catch. I think people are just starting to see what he can be.”
The Angels certainly could use Thaiss as a catcher in the big leagues, with Suzuki, 38, a free agent at the end of the season. Stassi, 31, is signed for two more seasons, but he’s struggled at the plate this season.
For the rest of this season, the Angels also could use Thaiss at first or even third, which has become the biggest hole in the lineup since Anthony Rendon has been out. Thaiss said he still takes ground balls regularly and could handle whatever the Angels ask.
Offensively, Thaiss hit .268 with 10 homers and an .815 OPS in Triple-A. The number that could help the Angels’ lineup the most is his .364 on-base percentage. Thaiss drew 43 walks, while striking out 61 times, at Triple-A.
Toward the end of another disappointing season, the Angels could at least enjoy a small taste of a playoff atmosphere with Saturday’s game in Toronto.
The Blue Jays were honoring the 1992 World Series championship team, so the Rogers Centre was filled with more than 50,000 fans. It also happened to be a pitching matchup between Shohei Ohtani and Alek Manoah.
“It’s a good experience, especially for our young guys, to be a part of all this,” Nevin said. “This is what we want to be a part of next year.”
Angels (LHP Tucker Davidson, 2-4, 6.23) at Blue Jays (RHP Ross Stripling, 6-3, 2.84), 10:37 a.m. Sunday, Bally Sports West, 830 AM