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Why the Angels called up Chase Silseth and what his debut says about their future

OAKLAND, Calif. — All it took was one pitch — a 96 mph fastball — for Joe Maddon to feel as though Chase Silseth was the real deal. It was a hard pitch, down the middle. One pitch, one strike.

“That first fastball, I really like that,” Maddon said. “It means he was in control of his emotions. Nothing was too quick. He just dotted that. … I love that. And then he continued to do that.”

The 21-year-old pitcher is just five days shy of his 22nd birthday. Late last season, he got a surprise call-up to Double A. That couldn’t compare to the surprise call-up he earned this week. And he delivered in his first shot — mowing down the A’s lineup for six shutout innings. The right-hander walked two, allowed one hit and struck out four batters. It required just 81 pitches. He set up the bullpen to finish the 2-0 Angels win with ease.

“Still speechless, still processing everything,” Silseth said, taking a big deep breath before answering the question. “You know, heck of a day. Heck of a day.”

That was one game and one night. It will be a game he’ll remember forever and a game that will go down as one of the best MLB debuts for a starting pitcher in Angels history.

But more importantly, the start represented something bigger for the Angels organization. Last season, it almost seemed gimmicky when the team drafted a pitcher with every single pick.

This was the first tangible taste of what results could come to fruition from that draft.

Silseth’s call-up indicated the Angels have zero qualms with calling up players they deem ready. No matter the age or level.

“I’d love for us to become known as a pitching organization again,” Maddon said.

Silseth was the 321st player taken in the 2021 MLB Draft. But none of the 320 players taken before him or the 291 players taken after him have made their MLB debuts.

The Angels made the savvy decision to select Silseth later on. They knew their earlier selections would enable them to have extra money to pay over slot for a pitcher who could have been, and probably expected to be, taken earlier.

“It was one of those things where our staff did a great job … of identifying a really good arm that was still on the board,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. “We felt like we were able to look at opportunities, and we felt like he was an outstanding opportunity to take a chance on.”

Minasian also acknowledged “it took some convincing” to get Silseth to sign for a $480,000 signing bonus. It was more than the Angels paid for any of their picks from the fifth round through the 10th.

That’s partly why Silseth has always been in the same conversation as top draft pick Sam Bachman, second-round pick Ky Bush and fifth-round pick Brett Kerry. All of them have had hot starts to their pro careers. All of them look as though they’re developing toward a potential major-league future.

Angels outfielder Aaron Whitefield also started last week at Double-A Rocket City. He, too, got a shocking call-up to the big leagues. And he was thrilled when he heard his teammate was getting a shot to join the Angels.

“I said to him, I said, ‘Dude, do everything you were doing back in Huntsville,’” Whitefield said. “‘It’s obviously a bigger stage, but it’s the same stuff. It’s going to show when you get here how good you are.’”

That was before the game, and after the game, everyone was proven right. Silseth was everything as advertised and maybe a little bit more. The Angels haven’t committed to keeping Silseth at the big-league level, and the two taxi squad players in Oakland didn’t provide initial optimism. But by the end of the night, it sounded as though Silseth will get another look.

“From what I heard and what you just saw, he looks like the guy you want to give another opportunity to,” Maddon said.

It’s been just three days since Reid Detmers made history with his no-hitter. It’s been just two days since the first anniversary of Detmers’ first minor-league pitch. It’s been just 328 days since Silseth pitched for Arizona in the College World Series.

Those quick rises make for cool stories. But they also symbolize the strategy the Angels are employing. And it shows at least the inklings of a system that can churn out homegrown talent on the mound.

That’s the 30,000-foot view of what Friday night meant. For Silseth, it was just plain cool. All of his family and friends came up from New Mexico. And he threw a gem. Then the team celebrated. Not just the win, but his role in it.

Silseth said the performance was dedicated to his uncle who passed away; the final thing he said to Silseth was that he’d make it to the major leagues. Friday night in Oakland, he did that and more.

“It’s awesome. It’s what we dream of,” Silseth said. “That was for him.”

(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

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