Walsh pushes through adverse season

September 22nd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Baseball can be cruel sometimes. 

is well aware of that. He was an All-Star first baseman in 2021, but started dealing with neurological issues late last season. It led to fatigue, a lack of balance, tremors, insomnia, headaches and a lack of spatial awareness. And, of course, it affected his performance on the field. 

He tried to play through it during Spring Training, only to step away to get help at a treatment center in Salt Lake City near the club’s Triple-A facility. He returned to the Triple-A lineup on May 12 and was brought back to the Majors on May 20. 

But Walsh still wasn’t feeling 100 percent, and he struggled, hitting .119 with one homer and five RBIs in 28 games before being sent down on June 24 and eventually designated for assignment on July 26. 

It was a tough blow for Walsh, but he made the most of his time at Triple-A Salt Lake and started to get a better handle on managing his symptoms. After a recent tear, in which homered four times in six games, Walsh was recalled to the Majors last Friday. He wasn’t originally in the lineup, but came in during the eighth inning because infielder Eduardo Escobar was needed to pitch in an 11-1 blowout. 

Walsh took advantage of his opportunity and smacked a 435-foot homer off Tigers reliever Trey Wingenter. And he kept that momentum going by homering again on Saturday, showing off the power that once had him considered the first baseman of the future for the Angels. 

“It’s been huge, Walsh said. “Any time you hit a home run in the Major Leagues, it's a special feeling. It's a lot of answered prayers. It feels like the cognition is coming back a little bit. I think the quality of at-bats is a lot better as well. So it’s really exciting.”

Walsh, 30, isn’t completely past his symptoms but has been feeling much better, which he thinks has helped him get back on track. He’s felt especially locked in since a series in Las Vegas that started in late August. 

“Honestly, [it] just feels like some of the fog and the fatigue is really lifted,” Walsh said. “Like I've kind of hit my stride. Unfortunately, it's only with 15 games left or whatever it may be, but I've been really happy and feeling noticeably better.” 

Walsh knows that his place in the organization is far from secure, which is why this brief stretch is so important. Walsh, who made $2.65 million this season, could be a non-tender candidate this offseason, so he’s not just auditioning for a role with the Angels, but potentially with another club. 

Nolan Schanuel, who was called up after just 40 days in the Minors and has had an impressive start to his MLB career, is now ahead of Walsh on the organizational depth chart at first base. Walsh has been playing in the outfield as a result. 

“He’s going to get to play the next two weeks,” manager Phil Nevin said. “Whether it’s in the outfield, DH, first, he’s going to get his opportunities. It’s nice to see him have a clear head and be in a good place. That’s what it’s most important to me. He went through a lot. It took him a while to find some things. It was a long, grueling summer but the season’s not over.” 

Walsh said he’s trying not to worry about his future with the club. He’s just trying to play his best down the stretch and make the decision to tender him a contract more difficult on the Angels. 

“I don't really worry about it too much,” Walsh said. “I think if I get the barrel on the ball good things are gonna happen. And so I'll let the chips fall where they may. Other people make those decisions and I just go out there and play. Whatever happens, happens.”