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OC Register: Angels move Taylor Ward into leadoff spot, ahead of Shohei Ohtani


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ANAHEIM — The joke around the Angels on Monday was that Manager Joe Maddon must be reading Twitter.

After a growing discontent among Angels fans that Shohei Ohtani continued to hit in the leadoff spot, Maddon moved Taylor Ward to the top of the order, followed by Ohtani.

“I succumb so easily,” Maddon quipped.

In reality, Maddon said the decision was driven more by Ward than Ohtani.

Ward, who missed the first week of the season with a groin injury, had produced a .346 average and a .528 on-base percentage in his first eight games. He had drawn 10 walks in 36 plate appearances, including a bases-loaded walk to push home the go-ahead run in the seventh inning on Saturday.

“I just felt he’s done a great job getting on base and he’s doing it for the 7-8-9 hitters,” Maddon said. “I figured let’s just put him at the top. He makes the most sense to me right there right now.”

Maddon simply moved Ohtani, who is hitting .224 with a .288 on-base percentage, to the No. 2 spot. Mike Trout hit third, with Jared Walsh at cleanup and Anthony Rendon in the No. 5 spot. Rendon has been slumping, although he drew four walks on Sunday.

Maddon said his “inclination” is to give this lineup a little time to see how it works.

Ward said he’s happy to hit leadoff, but he emphasized that it doesn’t make a difference to him.

“It is what it is,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter. Every situation is the same. If you think about (the batting order spot) and it matters to you, then maybe you are overthinking it. Keeping everything even keel helps.”

It remains to be seen how long Ward can maintain a clip that makes him the best option at the leadoff spot.

His career on-base percentage is .319, and last season he had a .332 mark in a career-high 237 plate appearances.

BULLPEN USE UPDATE

Maddon said at the start of the season that he didn’t want to use his relievers in back-to-back games because of the way they had to prepare during a shortened spring training.

“We’re very close to getting away from that,” Maddon said on Monday.

The Angels didn’t use closer Raisel Iglesias or setup man Ryan Tepera on Sunday, because both had pitched the night before. Although Iglesias had already pitched on back-to-back days this season, Maddon still wanted to be conservative with him. Iglesias also pitched on Wednesday and warmed up on Friday.

“We’re just trying to be careful with him right now,” Maddon said of Iglesias. “That’s all it is. The abbreviated spring. All the things that happened before the season began. We expect to play longer this year. So we’re trying to take a lot of things into account.”

NOTES

Outfielder Brandon Marsh was out of the lineup for the second straight game because of an illness. Maddon said he hoped that Marsh would be well enough to go into the game late, if needed. …

Salt Lake Bees right-hander Cesar Valdez was named the Pitcher of the Week in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He pitched a complete game at Reno on Friday, striking out eight and walking none. Valdez, 37, has pitched 68 big league games over parts of four seasons, from 2010 to 2021. He had a 5.87 ERA in the majors last season with the Baltimore Orioles. …

Right-hander Ty Buttrey has not allowed a run in any of his first three relief outings at Triple-A. Buttrey has faced the minimum nine hitters, with one strikeout. Buttrey is trying to work back after a one-year retirement. He suggested in spring training that it would take some time for him to get his stuff back to where it needs to be for him to pitch in the majors, so his return is not imminent.

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP Patrick Sandoval, 0-0, 0.00) vs. Guardians (RHP Triston McKenzie, 0-1, 2.38), Tuesday, 6:38 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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