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OC Register: Ron Washington looks to Griffin Canning as a leader among Angels pitchers

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As Ron Washington gets to know his players, beyond simply the numbers they’ve produced, Griffin Canning made an immediate impression on his new manager.

Washington, in fact, pulled the right-hander aside this spring to let him know what he thought of his work.

“There may be older guys on that pitching staff, but let me tell you something, they don’t handle their business the way you handle yours,” Washington told Canning.

Canning is 27 and has only made it through one full big league season in the rotation. The others were interrupted by injuries or the pandemic.

Still, Washington likes what he’s seen.

“He’s an athlete and he’s a natural leader and that attribute I want him to use every day,” Washington said. “He’s got all those kids with him. Bring them with him. Don’t you do it and hope they follow. No, no, no. Make them follow. Because you do it right. You stand out. I let him know that I want him to lead that pitching staff.”

After Canning worked two scoreless innings against the San Francisco Giants in his spring debut on Monday, he said he appreciated Washington’s confidence.

“Obviously Wash has been in the game for a long time, so that’s awesome to hear,” Canning said. “I want to prove him right. I want to be a leader so I’ll do what I can.”

Canning was the Angels’ second round pick in 2017, and he’s been in the majors since 2019, although he’s been injured for much of that time.

“When you look at it, I’m one of the guys that has been with Angels the longest now, so I know kind of where we can improve and that kind of thing,” Canning said. “If we can turn around the culture and kind of set it how we want it to be then, yeah, anything I can do to help.”

For his part, Canning will simply be trying to take the next step on what he did last season, which was an encouraging 127 innings. He had missed the previous season and a half with a stress fracture in his back.

“It was very satisfying,” Canning said of his 2023 season. “After that last start, it was a big emotional dump to relax a little bit. I was proud of myself and thankful for the people around me that helped me get to that point. While you’re hurt, you think about how good it’s going to feel once you come out the other side.”

Canning made 22 starts and posted a 4.32 ERA. He gave up three runs or fewer in 16 of his starts.

“It was probably my most rewarding season personally, knowing everything I went through and how hard I had to work,” Canning said.

The next step for him is to make another jump in terms of innings, and further minimize the rough outings.

“I think it’s more just a mentality thing,” Canning said. “I think my pitches are my pitches. Obviously we’re going to tinker and make it as best as we can, but it’s just going out there and executing one pitch at a time. It pretty much boils down to throwing strikes, jumping ahead of the hitters, all of the sort of cliche things. Usually the simple things are the most important things.”


Right-hander Adam Cimber (left hamstring tightness) was cleared to return to regular activity. …

Left-hander José Quijada (Tommy John surgery) has been doing long toss. He was scheduled to get out to 120 feet on Monday. The Angels are planning on Quijada returning sometime in June or July. …

Outfielder Nelson Rada, one of the Angels’ top prospects, is in big league camp even though he’s just 18. “He looks young,” Washington said. “You can see his game is not all the way there yet. But it’s good for the level that he plays. He’s got a lot of upside. It’s good for him to be getting this competition. He’ll leave here better than he was when he came.” …

The early returns on Jo Adell’s swing changes have Washington optimistic that he will cut down on his strikeouts. “I believe his contact rate is going to go up this year,” Washington said. “It might go up a percent. It might go up 2%. And you never know, it might go up 15%. He’s working on some things to try to put himself in a better position to be able to make better contact when he decides to explode at a baseball.” Adell has struck out in 35.4% of his plate appearances in his major league career, with a contact rate of 63.8%. The major league average is 74.2%. …

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