ANAHEIM — Before Cooper Criswell made his big league debut in the Angels’ 5-0 loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday night, Perry Minasian rejected the notion that Criswell wasn’t a prospect.
“He’s been a prospect in our eyes,” the Angels’ general manager said. “We like the way he throws strikes, attacks the zone. He can do different things with the ball. He’s not scared.”
Criswell did throw the ball over the plate, despite the fact that he was throwing a two-seam fastball that averaged 87.2 mph.
The Padres made contact on every one of their swings, including five consecutive hits that produced three runs and knocked him out with one out in the second inning.
“The first inning he got the ball on the ground a few times and I thought, here we go,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “The next inning I just didn’t feel comfortable about it. I wanted to keep the game close.”
Criswell said his biggest problem was falling behind in the count.
“I had some jitters, but once I got out there I felt good,” Criswell said, “but I had trouble locating my stuff and I fell behind and that didn’t help me much. … The kind of pitcher I was tonight was not a recipe for success. I need to get ahead.”
It remains to be seen whether Criswell will get another shot to demonstrate if his stuff can play in the big leagues.
The 25-year-old former 13th-round pick had shown enough in the minors to warrant an opportunity when the rest of the Angels’ big-league rotation was ravaged by trips to the injured list.
Criswell posted a 3.77 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A this season. He struck out 112 in 90-2/3 innings, numbers that suggested he could miss some bats, even with his below-average velocity.
After the Padres knocked out Criswell, the Angels brought in another pitcher who had climbed through their farm system without the kind of eye-popping stuff that scouts like to see, and he fared better.
Left-hander Packy Naughton pitched 4-1/3 innings and gave up just two unearned runs. Shortstop José Iglesias made two errors in the fifth, leading to the runs.
“I thought Packy was outstanding,” Maddon said. “He attacked the strike zone. He had a variety of different pitches. He’s definitely not afraid. He’s got really good presence out there. Bully for Packy. That was an outstanding performance.”
Naughton, who was acquired last year from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Brian Goodwin, had a 4.90 ERA this season at Double-A and Triple-A. He has now given up one earned run in 5-1/3 big league innings.
Naughton now certainly could be in line to get an opportunity as a starter as the Angels try to piece together their rotation for the final month.
While Naughton kept the Padres from making the game a blowout, it didn’t matter because the Angels’ hitters did nothing against Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove, who tossed a complete game.
The Angels managed just three hits, all singles. They only had one at-bat with a runner in scoring position all night.
“That was all Musgrove’s fault,” Maddon said. “I’ve seen him before in Pittsburgh. That was the best version of him. I’ve seen him good but I’ve never seen those kind of numbers throughout the game. He had everything going today. Plus he had a wide strike zone to work with too, so that benefited him also.”