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OC Register: Angels’ Taylor Ward passes a test on his way back from frightening injury

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Taylor Ward admitted he was somewhat apprehensive as he stepped into the box on Saturday afternoon, but the feeling didn’t last long.

“After that first pitch went by, (the feeling) kind of went away,” the Angels outfielder said.

Ward faced right-handers Davis Daniel and Travis MacGregor, the first time he’d hit against game-speed pitching since his 2023 season was ended by a fastball to his face in July.

The injuries Ward suffered that day led to surgery and a lingering question about whether the mental impact of that moment might have a negative effect on his career.

Ward had been hitting since November, but he hadn’t faced a pitcher until Saturday. Daniel threw him a 95 mph fastball that was up and in. Ward, who now wears a protective C-flap over his jaw, also saw a curve ball that began high and then dove over the plate.

He didn’t flinch on either one.

“I saw it early enough so it wasn’t much of a knee buckle,” Ward said of the curve. “But that was a good little test right there.”

After completing the three at-bats, he was satisfied that he can get back to normal, worrying about his mechanics and not another pitch toward his head.

“After seeing that first pitch go by, I think I settled down and got back to my approach and what I do,” he said. “Feeling good.”

Ward’s progress is certain to be closely watched throughout the spring and into the season, as he looks to rebound from the frightening incident on July 29 in Toronto.

Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah threw a 92 mph fastball that sailed up and in on Ward, hitting him in the face. Ward crumpled to the ground instantly.

“I was just unsure of where my life was going at that point,” Ward said. “I was trying to blink my left eye and it felt like there was a laceration in there, so at that moment I was kind of freaking out.”

By the time Ward got up and onto a cart to leave the field, he could see. He said the medical personnel who initially evaluated him didn’t show much concern for a life- or career-altering injury, “so that helped me out a lot.”

Later, he underwent CT scans that confirmed the diagnosis.

“When they said your brain and your jaw is alright, it was all good after that,” Ward said.

He still required surgery, including the insertion of two plates. His broken nose meant that he couldn’t engage in high intensity activities, so baseball was out. He could only ride a stationary bike.

By October, Ward was cleared to begin normal workouts in the gym, and a month later he was hitting.

Now, he shows no visible effects of the injury, and so far he has no mental scars. Asked if he preferred not to talk about it, he said he was fine. Ward said he spoke to several other big leaguers, including Justin Turner, who had gone through similar experiences.

“It was good to hear their perspective,” he said. “They told me everything was going to be fine.”

If Ward can perform as he has at his best over the previous two years, it would be a significant boost to the Angels’ offense. He began the 2022 season with an 1.194 OPS through his first 30 games. He hurt his shoulder running into the right field fence in late May, and he said that sapped his strength, leading to a three-month slump. Ward finished strong in 2022, but then he began 2023 in another slump.

He was just beginning to hit again last season, posting a 1.047 OPS in his final 85 plate appearances before getting hurt.

“I definitely learned a lot last year with why I got so far off,” Ward said. “It was 100% mechanics. During that, I was able to learn a lot. … This offseason actually kind of picked up right where right where I left off. So just knowing those things and those cues that make me tick even more and more, just learning myself more and more, hopefully. I know this game, how difficult it is and the ups and downs, but hopefully I can stick with those things and be alright.”


Right-hander Hunter Strickland lasted only nine games with the Angels in 2021. He gave up nine runs in 6-1/3 innings and was designated for assignment.

“I wasn’t really surprised,” said Strickland, who rejoined the Angels on a minor league deal on Saturday. “You saw the numbers. A small sample size for sure, but at the end of the day the best plays and we’ve got a job to do. I have a lot of respect for Perry (Minasian) and the organization. I get it. It’s a business. I’m gonna make it a little better this time.”

Strickland, 35, has not pitched in the majors since 2022. He was in Triple-A with the Cincinnati Reds when he was released in May last year.

“Honestly, I thought I was done,” Strickland said. “I made peace with it. Just enjoying a summer at home, the first one since high school. Enjoying it with my family.”

Strickland decided he didn’t want to give up on his career, so he worked out over the winter and threw a showcase, which the Angels attended. Strickland is now competing with veterans like Drew Pomeranz, Adam Kolarek, who are also on minor league deals, along with young pitchers like Andrew Wantz and Jimmy Herget, for the final spots in the Angels bullpen.

“Obviously it’s a healthy competition, which is a good thing,” Strickland said. “It says a lot about what Perry and the organization is trying to do here. Ultimately, we’re trying to win here, to bring a championship to Anaheim. Trying to pursue all options and have some depth, which I think is always important.”

Manager Ron Washington said the pitchers who are competing won’t have the luxury of using spring training simply to work on things.

“Nolan Ryan can just ‘work on his stuff,’” Washington said. “I don’t think we have Nolan Ryan in here. They’re going to have to work on their stuff and be competitive at the same time.”


Third baseman Anthony Rendon arrived in camp on Saturday, a day before all the position players are scheduled to have physicals. The first full squad workout will be on Monday. …

Left-hander José Quijada, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, said he’s been playing long toss. Once he completes that progression, he’ll be able to begin throwing off a mound. Quijada said he doesn’t have a date in mind for returning to action, but the Angels are expecting him to be ready in June or July. …

Infielder Ehire Adrianza arrived in camp on Saturday. Adrianza, who signed a minor league deal, missed last season because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. He said he’s now “100%.” Adrianza just played in the Caribbean Series for the Venezuelan team that won the championship. …

The Angels have adjusted their workout schedule because so many position players arrived early that they’ve already completed some of the things that the team had planned to work on after the first official full squad workout.

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1 hour ago, AngelsWin.com said:

The Angels have adjusted their workout schedule because so many position players arrived early that they’ve already completed some of the things that the team had planned to work on after the first official full squad workout.

What exactly does this mean?

Does it change anything?

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On 2/17/2024 at 3:34 PM, BTH said:

What exactly does this mean?

Does it change anything?

It means they have a schedule of which situations/fundamentals they are going to focus on, and they handled some of them before the start of camp because everyone was there.

For example, one day they do a whole thing on first and third bunt defenses, one day they do rundowns, etc.

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