Press-Telegram (Long Beach)

Stassi says he feels like ‘night and day’ after 2nd hip surgery

- By Jeff Fletcher jfletcher@scng.com @jefffletch­erocr on Twitter

TEMPE, ARIZ. » Max Stassi said it used to take him 30 to 40 minutes just to loosen up his hips so he could handle all the squatting required to be a catcher.

Not any more.

Over the past two offseasons, Stassi has undergone a pair of procedures to repair genetic conditions in each of his hips. He compared it to having a bone spur.

“It’s night and day better,” he said Saturday. “I’ve got so much more range of motion there. It feels good to get into the squat.”

Because he was rehabbing, Stassi came into camp slightly behind the other catchers. He’s done all the work on the side, but won’t catch in a Cactus League game for the first time until sometime next week. He has no doubt that he’ll be ready to go 100% by Opening Day.

“I feel as good as I have in a long time,” Stassi said.

Just as he’s feeling good, he’s also now in position to be a No. 1 catcher for the first time in a big league career that started in 2013.

Last year with the Angels the plan was for Stassi and Jason Castro to share the job, but Castro still was the guy who started Opening Day.

Stassi, however, got off to a hot start at the plate, and he finished hitting .278 with an .886 OPS and seven homers in 90 at-bats. Prior to that, Stassi had a career .611 OPS and he’d hit just 12 homers in 432 at-bats.

His 2019 season was so bad — a .136 average and .378 OPS — that he reworked his swing over the winter. He adjusted his posture to be more over the plate.

Once he got going, and played more, his confidence grew. He actually was allowed

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to hit for himself late in games instead of always yielding to a pinch-hitter.

“Having that confidence from my manager to have late-inning at-bats was huge,” Stassi said.

The offense was a significan­t addition for a catcher who had been defined by his defense, specifical­ly his pitch-framing.

Stassi, who turns 30 on March 15, now projects to get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate, with Kurt Suzuki filling in two

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