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OC Register: Luis Rengifo, Angels looking to smooth inconsistency out of his game

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ANAHEIM — If only the Angels could get a whole season out of the Luis Rengifo who they have seen for stretches at the end of the last two seasons, they might really have something.

Rengifo, 27, enters this season as the Angels’ primary backup at second base, third base and shortstop. He figures to get plenty of playing time, even if it’s not at one position.

The larger question is which Rengifo is going to show up when he’s at the plate.

In 2022, Rengifo had a .572 OPS through his first 112 plate appearances, and then a .764 OPS over his last 399. Last season he had a .590 OPS through his first 226 plate appearances, followed by a .980 OPS over the last 219 trips to the plate.

“The good version, that guy’s a good player,” Angels hitting coach Johnny Washington said. “I think with just a few more at-bats, he’ll find his spot again and continue to play the way he did in the second half last year.”

The hot stretch in 2023 was ended prematurely, when he ruptured his biceps tendon in September, requiring surgery. Rengifo said he wasn’t back to 100% until late December, but that was still enough time in the offseason to go through videos searching for the key to his swing.

Rengifo, who is 3 for 10 with two doubles so far this season, said that he’s better when he goes to the plate with “a game plan.”

“The most important thing is to keep battling every single time when I’m in the box,” Rengifo said. “It’s more about being in the game all the time. Know the situation. Know the plan when you hit.”

He now has two new hitting coaches – Washington and Tim Laker – who will be trying to keep the good version of Rengifo on the field.

Washington said the work has been good so far, but Rengifo missed time with a hamstring injury for two stints during spring training, so he’s still catching up to where he would be.

“He’s taking huge strides,” Washington, the hitting coach, said. “He’s just going up to the plate with conviction and understanding his plan, his approach and being able to be selective with his pitch selection, given the game state and understand the story of the pitcher: what he throws, how he’s going to use it, how he’s going to attack him. I think he has a tremendous understanding of that. He is growing with it. I’m excited.”

They’ll also try to get the switch-hitter to be as effective against righties as he has been against lefties. Rengifo has a career .757 OPS against lefties, compared with .667 from the other side.

“We’re trying to eliminate those highs and lows,” Manager Ron Washington said. “We just want highs. A low happens for three, four, five at-bats, and then you’re high again. That’s what you call consistency. He just has to learn that consistency and when he finds his swing, he needs to hold on to it for a long time. Sometimes young kids when they find something they take it for granted. But hopefully we can get them to understand in the game of baseball, you can’t take anything for granted.”

Ron Washington said earlier this spring he was encouraged by the work Rengifo has done.

“Every day he’s stimulating his mind,” Washington said. “I don’t know how often he’s had conversations about things, but here we’re talking every single day about every single thing.”

Ron Washington has used Rengifo as a leadoff hitter at times in the spring, but he concedes that he needs work to stay in that spot.

“Down here he’s making too many outs on first pitches,” Washington said. “If you’re going to be in the leadoff spot, you have to work the pitcher a little bit.”

Defensively, Rengifo got a late start in working with his new manager on his famed progression of ground ball drills, because he suffered a hamstring injury early in camp.

Rengifo said he heard from two friends with the Atlanta Braves, Orlando Arcia and Ozzie Albies, that Washington would make him better in the field.

“They said that guy is going to help you a lot,” Rengifo said. “That’s good. I want to work. And I want to be better every single day.”


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

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