When the Los Angeles Angels signed Chris Devenski to a minor league deal this offseason, I didn't really think much of it. Depth is always nice to have, but it's not like he had done anything at the big league level to really expect much from if he did get a chance this season.
Devenski came up with the Astros in 2016 and was immediately one of the better relievers in all of baseball. He had a 2.16 ERA in 48 appearances that season, and followed that up with a 2.62 ERA in 68 appearances and 80.2 innings pitched in 2017. Devenski was an all-star as a set-up man which is pretty hard to do, and was armed with one of the best changeups in the sport.
Back-to-back disappointing seasons in 2018 and 2019 followed by some injuries saw Devenski on what looked like his last legs. From 2020-2022 Devenski had an ERA of 9.47 in just 25 appearances pitching for the Astros, Diamondbacks, and Phillies. The Angels gave the hometown kid a shot, but Angels fans had no reason to believe anything was going to happen.
After watching Jimmy Herget excel last season after inking a minor league deal with the club, I guess we should've had a bit more confidence. So far this season Devenski has looked like the 2023 version of Jimmy Herget, and has earned a spot pitching in high-leverage moments.
LA Angels reliever Chris Devenski has earned a spot in Phil Nevin's circle of trust
Devenski was promoted in late April to try and provide a spark for a bullpen that has had its weaknesses. Carlos Estevez and Matt Moore have been excellent all year, but they can't be used every night. The Angels have also struggled to get to Estevez and Moore with leads, thanks to a slew of relievers blowing leads in the middle innings. The Angels have 11 blown saves which have them tied for second in the majors, while Estevez and Moore have combined for exactly zero of them.
The Angels have searched the entire season for a reliever to help be the bridge to Moore and Estevez, and with each day that passes by, Devenski looks more and more like that guy.
In Devenski's 11 appearances, the right-hander has a 3.07 ERA. He's allowed five runs in 14.2 innings pitched. When looking a little deeper, you'll see the ERA is inflated from two rough outings. For the most part, Devenski has been unbelievable.
Devenski allowed three runs in two innings in an appearance against the Rangers and allowed two runs in an appearance against the Orioles. Outside of that, he's given up just two hits in 11 innings of work. Devenski has yet to walk a batter as an Angel and has 13 strikeouts.
Lately, Devenski has been used in a "stopper" role. He comes on in the middle of an inning with a runner or runners on base, and is tasked with getting out of the inning. He's excelled in this role, stranding 10 of the 13 runners he's inherited.
We saw this firsthand in the Boston series. Devenski came on with a runner on first after Aaron Loup had blown a lead. He induced a double play ball to get out of that inning. Two days later he came on with the bases loaded and two outs. He got one of Boston's best hitters, Masataka Yoshida, to ground out and end that threat. That's four runners stranded right there.
Would I like for the Angels to add to the bullpen? Of course. However, Devenski is proving to be the third reliever Phil Nevin can trust late in games in virtually any spot. He can get righties and lefties out thanks to his vaunted change-up, and he can pitch whether the bases are empty or full.
Most minor league signings don't do much, but Devenski is making a huge impact on a team trying to get back to the postseason.