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OC Register: Angels’ Jared Walsh hoping to parlay hot finish in 2020 to full season of success in 2021

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Within the span of a year, Jared Walsh went from a neat little story to a guy who may end up sending a first ballot Hall of Famer to the bench to end his career.

Of course, Walsh doesn’t want to hear any of that.

“I try not to get too high and not get too low,” the Angels’ first baseman said. “I’ve had times where I’ve really struggled and you think, Oh, is this it? Am I done? And then you think you’re the next Ted Williams if you have some good AB’s.

“I want to stay in the middle of that, because baseball is a real humbling game. I know I’m not ever going to have it figured out, so I’m trying to enjoy it and really appreciate the opportunity that I’m getting here at the big league level.”

Walsh, 27, was fortunate enough to end the 2020 season on one of those high moments, so he’s had an entire winter to take satisfaction in the sizzling September that no doubt changed the way he is viewed in baseball.

Thanks to some swing tweaks when he was at the Angels alternate training site in Long Beach last August, Walsh finished 2020 with a .293 average, a .971 OPS and nine homers in 99 at-bats.

If he’s even close to that this year, he likely will get the bulk of the playing time at first while Albert Pujols sits in the final year of his Angels contract.

That’s still a significant if, though.

Not even Walsh was bold enough to say that he’s certain the small sample success he had last September can be replicated over a full season in 2021.

“I guess we’ll have to see in a few months,” he said.

Walsh’s big performance last year was somewhat surprising because, despite impressive numbers throughout his minor league career, he was never considered much of a prospect.

The Angels drafted him in the 39th round in 2015. A few years into his career, they experimented by putting him on the mound, which was essentially a way to milk some versatility out of a fringy player.

But Walsh’s strong showing in 2020 has taken pitching off the table. He said he didn’t throw any bullpen sessions over the winter and he does not expect to pitch at all this year.

The Angels need Walsh to just keep doing what he did last year. Not only could he be Pujols’ replacement at first, but he also adds left-handed pop to a lineup without much from that side of the plate.

Walsh said his breakthrough last year came simplifying his swing and hitting the ball the other way.

“I thought I did a really good job of using the entire field,” he said. “When I was swinging the bat well, I was kind of using left-center. When I feel like I’m locked in, left-center is somewhere that I go pretty consistently.”

In 2019, when Walsh posted a .605 OPS in 79 at-bats, he pulled the ball 45.5 percent of the time. Last year it was 34.5 percent.

His next step is improving his plate discipline, which he said is a function of having his body in a good position so he can see the ball well enough.

Over the winter he kept in constant contact with Angels hitting coaches to try to maintain the swing he had at the end of the season.

“I think I’m in a pretty good place right now,” he said. “Always room to improve, but I’m pretty excited.”


Manager Joe Maddon said he could not comment on new reports of suspended pitching coach Mickey Callaway’s behavior with women.

Callaway is currently under investigation by the Angels and MLB for having inappropriate contact with several women in the media.

A report published on Tuesday in The Athletic provided further details about Callaway’s relationships with women and the extent to which his former employers, the Cleveland Indians and New York Mets, were aware of them.

An Angels spokesperson said last month the team was unaware of Callaway’s history when they hired him in October 2019 or at any point until the reports surfaced last month.

Bullpen coach Matt Wise was named interim pitching coach during Callaway’s suspension, but he has been away from the team since testing positive for COVID-19 in the first days of camp. Maddon said Wise may be cleared to return as soon as Wednesday.


Shohei Ohtani is penciled in to make his first start on the mound of the spring on Friday, with one or two innings against the Oakland A’s. He will be the last of the Angels projected top six starters to get in a Cactus League game. Dylan Bundy will pitch on Wednesday and Griffin Canning will start on Thursday. …

Gerardo Reyes was diagnosed with a sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. Although that type of injury can lead to Tommy John surgery, the Angels and Reyes are currently exploring their options. Reyes was one of the candidates for a bullpen spot. …

Anthony Rendon, who has not yet played in an exhibition game because of what Joe Maddon called “soreness,” is expected to make his spring training debut on Wednesday or Thursday.

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