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OC Register: Angels’ Zach Neto gets a well-deserved day off


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ANAHEIM – First it was Mike Trout who received the rest treatment on the days that Shohei Ohtani pitched, with that honor going to rookie Zach Neto on Thursday.

Call it at least a small sign of Neto’s rising profile that the Angels are comfortable taking him out of the equation in the hopes that Ohtani’s pitching can rule the day. It worked in the opener of the homestand when Trout sat against the Kansas City Royals and Ohtani guided a 2-0 victory.

Neto has delivered a solid start to his major league career, shoring up the left side of the Angels defense with his play at shortstop, along with some promising trips to the plate.

After playing 12 consecutive games since he was recalled from Double-A Rocket City, Neto was given time Thursday to bask in all he has delivered so far.

“(Manager Phil Nevin) came up to me saying I had the day off and just to just sit down in the dugout and kind of learn,” Neto said Thursday morning. “Kind of just sit back and just watch the game, learn things, just be a spectator. Later in the game, I might come in for defense or base running or hitting role.”

Neto showed Wednesday that he is settling in, changing to a two-strike approach early in an at-bat in order to combat the quick approach from A’s starter Luis Medina and ripped an RBI double to right-center in a five-run second inning.

Instead of his typical high leg kick as the pitcher delivers, Neto put his left toe down quickly then drilled a 96-mph fastball into the gap.

“I love his two-strike approach, I really do,” Nevin said. “I know everybody is going to strike out, I get that, this is a tough league. But I really like his two-strike approach and I don’t think it takes anything away from his power or the way his hands fly through the zone. … For him to make those adjustments as a rookie, in your first couple of weeks here, is impressive.”

As of now, Neto has no plans to abandon the high leg kick permanently, preferring to change things out of necessity, as he has been doing. If that makes him something of an unpredictable at-bat for opponents, even better.

“Yeah, for sure,” Neto said. “I think I think pitchers are expecting you to go straight to the big leg kick and being able to counter, with me just going straight to my two-strike (approach), I feel like it kind of throws them off a little bit. It might not. It might. But just being able to feel comfortable, that’s (the goal).”

Arriving as the roster replacement on the day fan-favorite David Fletcher was sent down only added to the expectations placed on Neto, but last year’s No. 13 overall draft pick has handled it well.

“I’m definitely starting to feel more comfortable,” Neto said. “I’m starting to talk more with the guys, conversations with everybody: pitchers, hitters, catchers, everybody. I’m at that point now where last series against Kansas City, that’s where I felt more comfortable. It’s a new series now and I’m feeling even more comfortable. I’m just trying to keep being where my feet are and just go out there and keep producing.”

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

The underlying benefit of Patrick Sandoval throwing seven innings on Wednesday, and new-arrival Chase Silseth adding two more innings, is that Nevin had a fresh bullpen heading into Thursday afternoon’s game against the A’s.

And if Ohtani delivered the kind of outing the Angels were expecting, it would mean opening the road trip Friday at Milwaukee with a full arsenal of relievers.

Late-inning left-hander Jose Quijada hasn’t pitched since he struggled Sunday, giving up five runs in two-thirds of an inning. Late-inning right-hander Carlos Estevez was available again Thursday after a five-out save on Tuesday.

“It makes my decisions a little bit easier during the game, obviously,” Nevin said about handling his bullpen. “Or maybe it doesn’t. Now I have a lot of guys to pick from so I won’t know what to do today.”

I think our starters are getting better, they’re working on a lot of things and learning how to pitch deeper into games.”

WHO ARE YOU?

The Angels’ upcoming three-game series against the Brewers will pit the teams against each other for the first time since 2019 when the Angels pulled off a three-game sweep. It is also the first time the Angels have played at Milwaukee since 2016.

In the last 10 games between the teams, the Angels have won eight of them.

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP Tyler Anderson, 1-0, 7.20) vs. Brewers (LHP Wade Miley, 3-1, 1.96), Friday, 5:10 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM.

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