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OC Register: Angels’ Jared Walsh won’t be pitching, but Taylor Ward will continue to catch

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With only pitchers and catchers participating in the official workouts so far in Angels camp, it’s worth noting that Taylor Ward is there and Jared Walsh isn’t.

Although Ward is listed as an outfielder, the Angels are continuing to have him get some reps at catcher, which was his position when he was drafted.

Walsh is listed as a two-way player, but Manager Joe Maddon said there has been no discussion about him pitching. Walsh now projects to get most of the starts at first base.

Walsh, 27, had been considered a fringe prospect when the Angels turned him into a two-way player in the minors. Last spring, he suffered an arm injury that took pitching off the table temporarily. Then he hit so well in September that it further dissuaded the Angels from putting him back on the mound.

Walsh hit .293 with nine homers and a .971 OPS.

“You saw what he did at first base and what he did in the batter’s box, so that’s our emphasis right now,” Maddon said Thursday morning before the Angels’ workout in Tempe, Ariz. “We don’t have any plans for him to pitch right now.”

As for Ward, he struggled offensively and behind the plate in the first couple seasons after the Angels took him in the first-round of the 2015 draft. In 2018, they moved him to third base and his offense took off.

Ward, 27, made some swing changes, but the organization also felt that being relieved of the physical and mental toll of catching helped him at the plate.

Taylor Ward of the Angels during spring training at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Feb. 22, 2019, in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

Now that Ward reached the big leagues and has begun showing signs of improvement offensively – he produced a .716 OPS in 2020 – the Angels are looking to add to his versatility to fit him on the roster. He worked with catching coach Jose Molina and caught a little in summer camp.

“He didn’t look like a novice,” Maddon said. “He had caught a lot in the past. It just adds to his value, I think, being able to do this.”

Ward is primarily a corner outfielder now, but he can also play first and third, in addition to catching.

Despite that versatility, his inability to play the middle infield or center field would put him behind players like Luis Rengifo, Franklin Barreto, Juan Lagares and Jon Jay in the competition for bench spots.


Max Stassi, who is rehabbing from hip surgery, is starting camp behind the other catchers, but Maddon said he still “looks good” to be ready by Opening Day. Known for his defense, Stassi had an offensive breakthrough with an .886 OPS last season, and Maddon said that seems to have carried over through the winter: “The hitting coaches were really happy with the way he looked in the cage.” …

Matt Thaiss is going to get more work in the corner outfield spots this spring, Maddon said. Thaiss had been primarily a first baseman, although in 2019 he added third base and last season played single games at second and in left field. …

The Toronto Blue Jays announced they’ll play at least the first month of their home schedule at their spring training home in Dunedin, Florida, meaning that’s where the Angels will play them April 8-11. Because of COVID-19, there are still travel restrictions between the United States and Canada. …

Major League Baseball announced a revised minor-league schedule, with Triple-A games beginning April 6, while the lower levels will begin play in May.

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