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OC Register: Angels’ Noah Syndergaard finally gets to pitch in Texas


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ARLINGTON, Texas — When Noah Syndergaard signed with the Angels last winter, he set the stage for something that he hadn’t done in his entire major league career.

Syndergaard had never pitched in Texas, his home state.

That will happen on Saturday, when Syndergaard takes the mound at Globe Life Field, which is about 20 miles from his hometown, Mansfield.

Syndergaard said on Friday that he’s eager for the chance to pitch in front of his friends and family, although he’s already got “anxiety just thinking about” the torrent of messages that will blow up his cell phone.

This ballpark was not around when Syndergaard was a young Rangers fan. The Rangers played in the ballpark across the street, which was called The Ballpark at Arlington back then. Syndergaard said he recalled walking the warning track on Little League days at Rangers games.

He said his favorite baseball movie is “The Rookie,” the story of the unlikely big league debut for Jim Morris, a 35-year-old high school baseball coach. Morris pitched his first big league game in Arlington.

“When he walks down the steps (from the bullpen) over there, I get goosebumps every time,” Syndergaard said.

As a Rangers fan, Syndergaard also idolized Nolan Ryan. Although Syndergaard is too young to have seen Ryan pitch for the Rangers, he knows enough about his career to hold him in high regard. Ryan wore No. 34 with the Rangers, which is why Syndergaard wears No. 34. (Syndergaard also appreciated that wearing the number gave him a chance to honor Nick Adenhart, the last Angels player to wear it.)

“I just try to emulate my game to his as much as possible,” Syndergaard said of Ryan. “Just to have that mentality to compete between the lines. He’s blessed with a tremendous fastball. I feel like I have a pretty good one too from time to time. He’s a guy I continue to look up to.”

OHTANI’S SLUMP

Shohei Ohtani suggested after Thursday night’s game that his offensive troubles are in part because he’s not swinging at strikes often enough. Ohtani was hitting .172 with a .441 OPS after Thursday’s game.

Last year – without Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon in the lineup – Ohtani didn’t see many strikes. Through the first seven games, the percentage of strikes Ohtani has seen has risen from 43.5% to 57.9%.

Has Ohtani overcompensated for the times last season when he expanded his strike zone?

Hitting coach Jeremy Reed doesn’t think so.

“It’s seven games in,” Reed said before Friday’s game. “We can look at things. We can over-compound things. We can bang our heads against the wall and say ‘What’s going on?’ It’s seven games, and there’s a lot of things that happen with players with their approach or how they’re seeing the ball, or maybe they’re just chasing a feeling to get back into the position they get in.”

Reed said he thinks Ohtani might simply be pressing.

“He’s coming off a year that everybody’s talked about,” Reed said. “He’s maybe putting a little bit on himself to try to do too much every single swing he takes, or every single ball he pitches, or every single ball he sees. Just slow down and take a breath and be yourself.”

NOTES

Outfielder Taylor Ward (groin) went through a full workout, including running the bases and hitting against a minor league pitcher, before Friday’s game. Manager Joe Maddon said Ward is expected to be activated on Saturday and “be a big part of the middle of our lineup.” Maddon said it’s unlikely the Angels would create a roster spot for Ward by taking a reliever off the roster, so Ward will replace another position player. …

A spokesperson for Bally Sports West said “technical issues” led to the audio delays during Thursday’s Angels broadcast. They had hoped to have the issues resolved before Friday’s broadcast. Although most teams have returned their broadcasters to the road this season, the Angels are still doing remote broadcasts, with play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian in New Jersey and analyst Mark Gubicza in California. An Angels spokesman said the decision to continue the remote broadcasts was “made jointly by Bally (Sports) and the Angels.”

UP NEXT

Angels (RHP Noah Syndergaard, 1-0, 0.00) at Rangers (LHP Taylor Hearn, 0-0, 2.25), Saturday, 6:05 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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