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OC Register: Angels’ Zach Neto says he has his ‘swagger’ back after slow start

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MIAMI — The Angels opened their season last Thursday, but for Zach Neto it really began Tuesday night.

More specifically, in the sixth inning Tuesday.

After a rookie season in which he showed promise offensively and defensively, Neto began 2024 with four forgettable games. He was 2 for 13 and made physical and mental mistakes at shortstop.

After he struck out in his first at-bat Tuesday night, Neto had a moment of self-reflection.

“That’s it,” he told himself, as he recalled Wednesday morning. “Let’s stop messing around. Let’s get after it.”

In Neto’s next trip to the plate, in the sixth inning, he yanked a double into left field, setting up a two-run inning that proved to be the difference in the game.

In the bottom of the sixth, Neto made a spectacular diving stop of a Josh Bell grounder. He then came back to the dugout and told his teammates how he felt.

“I think I got my swagger back,” Neto said. “I was just joking, but I think it’s actually true.”

Neto, 23, said he was putting too much pressure on himself in the first four games. It was his first time on an Opening Day roster, and then the first time for the Miami native to play at home.

“There were definitely some nerves and expectations for myself,” Neto said. “I felt kind of quick, kind of pressuring myself.”

Manager Ron Washington said he felt Neto looked more comfortable Tuesday than in the previous four games.

“Each day that comes and goes, it looks like he’s getting more and more relaxed,” Washington said. “He was quite relaxed in spring training and we try to just get him to get that same feeling. It’s no different.”

Neto said Wednesday morning he finally is where he wants to be, starting with that sixth inning.

“I think that play is where it all started,” Neto said. “I think it finally gave me the confidence that I can do anything out there whenever the ball is in my hand.”


Anthony Rendon was out of the lineup for the first time this season. Washington said it was not a reflection of Rendon’s 0-for-19 start, but just a routine day off. “We’ve been worried about him being healthy, and he grinds through spring training, the season started and he took on everything that we asked of him,” Washington said. “I just thought today being a day game after a night game it would nice to give him a day and let him have tomorrow. And then come back on Friday ready to go.” …

Mike Trout got his first start of the season at DH, with Jo Adell starting in center field. …

Right-hander Robert Stephenson (shoulder inflammation) threw another bullpen session Wednesday, his third in the last week. Stephenson is expected to face hitters when the Angels get home. He will need a minor-league rehab assignment, since he didn’t pitch in any games in spring training, but he could be activated by the end of the month. …

The Angels will have a home run celebration this season, but they have been waiting to unveil it at home.


Angels (RHP Griffin Canning, 0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. Red Sox (RHP Kutter Crawford, 0-0, 0.00) at Angel Stadium, 6:38 p.m. PT Friday, Bally Sports West, 830 AM.

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