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New Angels lefty Tucker Davidson rode improved slider to major leagues

SEATTLE — Tucker Davidson learned during his first stint at Triple-A in 2019 that simply having a fastball, curveball and changeup was not going to work for him.

“Against veteran hitters, if I didn’t have my curveball that day, I was down to two pitches, so they could just sit hard or sit soft,” the Angels’ new left-hander said. “I needed something that would break that looks like a fastball.”

Davidson adopted the slider thrown by Max Fried, his teammate in the Atlanta Braves’ system. The sport’s shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 allowed him more time to refine it.

When he showed up at summer camp, his Braves coaches told him that his new slider was now his best pitch.

“It really evolved quickly during 2020, and became a serious weapon,” said Davidson, who will make his Angels debut by starting on Sunday. “It’s continued to grow.”

The slider helped Davidson reach the majors in 2020. He has bounced between the majors and Triple-A ever since.

Last season he missed most of the second half with a flexor strain. He just pitched once at Triple-A at the end of the season, believing his year was over before the Braves selected him to stay and work out in the event he was needed as an injury replacement during the postseason.

Davidson was watching Game 1 of the World Series last year while having dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.

Then he saw a comebacker hit the leg of Atlanta Braves starter Charlie Morton, knocking him out of the game. And Davidson knew immediately what that meant.

A few hours later, he got the call that he was on his way to Houston for the World Series. He started Game 5 in Atlanta, allowing four runs (two earned) in two innings.

“It was fun,” Davidson said. “It was loud. It’s a lot of adrenaline, like you’d expect.”

This season Davidson, 26, has continued to bounce between Triple-A and the majors, with a 4.59 ERA at Triple-A and a 6.46 mark in 15-1/3 innings in the majors. The Braves sent him to the Angels in the Raisel Iglesias deal earlier this week.

“I feel great,” Davidson said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me and the whole team. We’ve got a young pitching staff and we’re going to get some opportunities to figure out who we are at this level.”

MAYERS RETURNS

Right-hander Mike Mayers rejoined the Angels as a member of the taxi squad, and one of the potential starters for the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Mayers had been a reliever throughout his major league career, and he’d been a successful reliever with the Angels in 2020 and 2021, before struggling through his first 15 games this season and getting designated for assignment.

No one claimed Mayers, so the Angels kept him in Triple-A. They have had him starting at Salt Lake.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Mayers said. “I think it’s been good for me to learn some new pitches, learn how to attack hitters differently.”

Mayers said he’s started throwing a curve and changeup, in addition to his fastball, cutter and slider.

Mayers had a 6.27 ERA at Triple-A, but in his last two outings he gave up five earned runs in 11 innings, with 12 strikeouts and three walks. He said it took him some time to adjust to the way the strike zone is called at Triple-A.

NOTES

David Fletcher was not in the lineup on Friday because he was still sore after getting hit in the foot by a pitch on Thursday afternoon. Manager Phil Nevin said he believes Fletcher will be OK to play on Saturday. …

Oliver Ortega joined Mayers on the taxi squad on Friday. The Angels will be able to one player to the roster for the doubleheader on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Angels (TBD and LHP Reid Detmers, 3-3, 3.62) at Mariners (RHP George Kirby, 2-3, 3.56 and RHP Chris Flexen, 7-8, 3.73), Saturday, 1:10 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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