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OC Register: Angels’ Justin Upton happy with support from MLB on social issues

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OAKLAND >> Justin Upton, who was among the Angels players to kneel during the national anthem on Friday night, said he’s been encouraged by the support he and others have received so far.

Scattered players around the majors have been kneeling during the anthem as a protest of systemic racism. Major League Baseball has supported them through the official social media, and many other players have been wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts branded with the MLB logo.

“I think with the awareness and what people have seen and what people believe, I think tide is starting to change and the support is there,” Upton said on Sunday. “Us being able to stand up and speak freely, I think it’s essential. I think it’s a good place we’re in, in this country.”

Upton and Brian Goodwin are each listed as members of the Major League Player Committee for The Players’ Alliance, which is an association of Black baseball players. The group is working to deal with “the unaddressed prejudice and inequalities that play out in our game and in our streets,” according to a message from the players on the official web site.

“With the Alliance, it’s the start of something good,” Upton said. “It’s special for us to to be able to connect with a lot of guys that you don’t see a lot throughout the game, share experiences and share beliefs and share the things that guys are doing in their communities and being able to support them in that. I think it’s the start of something good for us and good for baseball, but we’re definitely happy about the support we’ve gotten.”

On the field, Upton is also feeling better about things lately.

After a season in which missed more than half the games because of injuries and had a .625 OPS when he played, Upton said he’s now feeling healthy, strong and good about his timing at the plate.

“Physically, I feel really good,” said Upton, who hit his 299th career homer on Saturday and just missed one on Sunday. “I feel like I’m moving around well. The injuries are in the past. I still try to maintain taking care of those things, but they haven’t been an issue.”

RENDON UPDATE

Anthony Rendon took ground balls and took batting practice on the field. He also ran the bases and did some agility work.

Rendon, who has missed the first three Angels games because of oblique tightness, could return initially as the DH, Manager Joe Maddon said.

“This is one of the those things where you listen to the athlete, absolutely, and the athletic trainer,” Maddon said. “You listen to him also and make your decision.”

ALSO

Albert Pujols got the day off after an 0-for-8 start in his first two games. Pujols, 40, has seen his career batting average drop to .2994, which rounds to .299. When the season began, his average was .2996, which rounded to .300. Pujols said last season he didn’t care if his career average went under .300, which has been inevitable for a few years. …

The day off for Pujols, and having Shohei Ohtani on the mound, allowed for the Angels to play both Jared Walsh (at first) and Matt Thaiss (at DH). A day earlier, they started Michael Hermosillo and Taylor Ward. “The young guys aren’t going to sit the bench,” Maddon said. “These young guys have great futures in our game. … Furthermore, for the future of the organization, people like this have to get an opportunity.” …

Luis Rengifo, who is out with a hamstring issue, “is doing better,” Maddon said. There is no timetable for him to be available to join the active roster. He is working out with the reserve squad in Long Beach. …

Jose Molina was the first base coach on Sunday. Jesus Feliciano, the normal first base coach, is “away from the club,” according to an Angels spokesman.

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