Brandon Marsh has been an Angel since Los Angeles took him in the second round in 2016. He just felt a little bit more like one Friday night.
“Today, I felt free again,” he said, “and I just felt like they let my wings go.”
Batting leadoff and playing designated hitter, the left-handed slugger made sure he proved the health of the shoulder by connecting on the third pitch he saw from River Cats right-handed starter Matt Frisbee and sending it over the fence in left field. Having gone up 2-0 in the count, Marsh admitted he was looking to get back to his old ways.
“I’m not trying to be a hero on the first day,” said MLB Pipeline’s No. 38 overall prospect. “This is me trying to stay true to myself, sitting middle-away and trying to get lucky. He threw it middle-away just while I was looking into that particular area, and I just did what I’ve always been taught to do, focus on going the other way.”
After striking out in his next two at-bats, Marsh added another extra-base hit in the sixth when he laced a 1-1 pitch from left-handed reliever Sam Selman to right-center and raced around the bases for a two-run triple, his third of the season and second with the Bees.
He finished the night 2-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored from the top spot in the Salt Lake lineup.
Prior to Friday, Marsh last played for Salt Lake on June 1, when he was removed mid-game with a right shoulder issue. It was his second shoulder problem of the season after another injury forced him to miss time in the spring and delayed his season debut until May 13.
Friday wasn’t his official Minor League return, however. The 23-year-old played four games with the Angels’ Arizona Complex League affiliate, where he also homered in his first game back last Friday. Marsh mashed in Arizona, going 7-for-14 (.500) with three extra-base hits and four walks, but believed it was necessary for him to head there to find his footing before returning to Triple-A.
“I definitely needed some of that down in Arizona, just to catch up with the speed of the game again,” he said. “I know it’s in there. I know I can do it. It’s just I need to actually do it first before I can get on the bigger stage and do it here in Salt Lake.”
Most of Marsh’s June was spent learning and working on throwing exercises that are meant to strengthen the shoulder and put his problems with the joint in the past.
“It's nothing special,” he said “It's just a bunch of arm care and a bunch of arm care that I never would see myself doing. I've never had arm trouble. I say it's a blessing and a curse because I was out for a little bit of time, but it was an eye opener for me for what I need to do for the rest of my career.
“I need to get in there early. I need to go get stretched. I need to do my arm care. I need to stretch on my own. To be honest, I never really did things like that before.”
For all his shoulder problems of the past, Marsh’s DH duties were unrelated to the injury or his recovery from it. A difficult travel day from Arizona had him leave that state early and arrive later than he would have liked to the ballpark in Utah. He said manager Lou Marson wanted to ease him in by focusing on the bat Friday and that he’s already penciled into the Saturday lineup in center field, where he played three games in the ACL.
Without the injuries, there was an opportunity for Marsh to make his Major League debut in the first half of 2021, especially with Mike Trout and Justin Upton dealing with their own maladies of late. Instead, he heads into the second half hoping to build on his .200/.342/.400 line and two homers through only 17 games at the Minors’ top level. As he showed Friday, he has the power and speed to impact any game in which he’s actually on the field.
“I'm really looking forward to the second half,” he said. “A second half filled with health and health again.”