The Los Angeles Angels will get their first look at Janson Junk when the right-hander makes his major-league debut against the Texas Rangers on Sunday afternoon.
Junk was acquired from the New York Yankees on July 30 in exchange for starting pitcher Andrew Heaney.
Junk, 25, went 2-2 with a 5.27 ERA in five starts in August with Double-A Rocket City. He took a perfect game into the ninth inning and struck out eight in his most recent start on Aug. 27.
“When we acquired him, a lot of guys spoke very highly,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “When I looked him up, the numbers were good, and I’ve listened to conversations. He’s well liked.”
The Angels (68-68) selected Junk’s contract from Rocket City after they released veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias on Friday.
Junk will have some tough acts to follow this series.
Shohei Ohtani threw seven innings on Friday in a 3-2 win, and Jose Suarez threw the first complete game of the season for the Angels in a 4-1 victory on Saturday.
The Rangers (47-88) plan to counter with left-hander Taylor Hearn.
Hearn (4-4, 3.96) began the season in the bullpen, but has since made six starts, winning his past two.
He allowed two runs and six hits in a career-high 6 2/3 innings in a 13-2 win against the Houston Astros last Sunday.
“I think it was huge, just continuing to try to grow. Try to impose my will on (teams),” Hearn said. “Trusting my stuff, everything we’ve worked on.”
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Hearn has been one of the team’s biggest bright spots in an otherwise dismal season.
“Just everything that he’s done, coming into the year not being a starter but pitching really well,” Woodward said. “Just his composure that I talk about a lot. His demeanor; you feel like he belongs. He’s got confidence. He’s throwing the ball with a ton of conviction.”
Woodward also has been impressed with Hearn’s maturity.
“He’s always wanted to start, and now he’s getting the opportunity,” Woodward said. “Now, he goes out and pretty much dominates.”
Hearn, a left-hander, will likely need to find a way to get past Ohtani, the designated hitter.
Ohtani is hitting just .213 against the Rangers this season, but he is always dangerous.
Ohtani hit his MLB-leading 43rd home run of the season on Saturday night, however, a three-run shot in the sixth inning that turned a one-run game into a four-run deficit for the Rangers.
“This guy is ready to hit from the second he steps in the batter’s box,” Woodward said. “He’s been like that all year.”
Woodward said it’s possible to get Ohtani to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. Ohtani has three home runs against Texas this season, but he’s also struck out 17 times.
“We attack him in different ways. We use all the different pitches. We try to stay out of patterns,” Woodward said. “He’s a little bit impatient at times. We’ve done a good job kind of keeping him at bay and keeping him off the plate. … Seems like everything in the heart of the plate he’s hitting hard.”
–Field Level Media