The Los Angeles Angels will host the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night in Anaheim, Calif., with an impressive lineup that includes one player that not many outside of the organization might have given much thought.
With Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols getting more attention, Jared Walsh is starting to attract interest, particularly from opposing pitchers.
Coming out of spring training Walsh was expected to share time at first base with Pujols, but a season-ending knee injury to Dexter Fowler has opened up right field for Walsh. He has started 16 games in right field and eight at first base this season.
There likely wasn’t much doubt that Walsh could handle switching positions, considering he had a 1.80 ERA in five relief appearances on the mound as recently as 2019. But it was his bat that prompted the Angels to make him an everyday player.
Walsh, who went 0-for-2 with two walks in Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Rays, is hitting .348 with six homers, 21 RBIs and a 1.034 OPS in 26 games. He ranks behind only Ohtani in RBIs and Trout in batting average and OPS for the Angels’ team lead.
“I’ve always thought he had exceptional hands but the difference right now is his work ethic,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s among the best. And I love the fact he hates striking out and that’s why you’re seeing the ball shoot all over the field. He’s making adjustments during the at-bats. He’s really motivated and is not a flash in the pan. He’s that good.”
Walsh, however, is a left-handed hitter and the Angels will face Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan on Tuesday. Walsh his hitting .276 with a .724 OPS and 10 strikeouts in 29 at-bats against lefties.
McClanahan began the season at the Rays’ alternate training site but was called up last Thursday and made his first start of the season against Oakland, giving up two runs on five hits in four innings. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
McClanahan, 24, is unique in that he made his major league debut in the postseason, pitching in four games last season — two in the American League Division Series, one in the ALCS and one in the World Series, giving up five runs (four earned) in 4 1/3 innings.
Even with that experience, McClanahan admitted having some butterflies before his initial 2021 start.
“I was more nervous before the game than actually being on the mound,” McClanahan said. “It’s like, once you’re on the mound, everything just kind of takes care of itself and you actually get to do what you want to do.”
Rendon’s status for Tuesday’s game is in question because he fouled a ball off his knee in the eighth inning on Monday and had to be helped off the field.
Right-hander Alex Cobb will be on the mound for Los Angeles, trying to bounce back from two consecutive bad starts. He lasted only 2 2/3 innings against Houston on April 22. He followed that with a two-inning performance against Texas last Wednesday.
In all, Cobb has allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 24 hits in just 16 1/3 innings covering four starts. Cobb is 0-4 with a 4.32 ERA in six career starts against Tampa Bay.
–Field Level Media