Will this Angels slugger bounce back in 2023?

September 17th, 2022

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.

ANAHEIM -- It was a tough season for Angels first baseman

After a breakout 2021 season that saw him post an .850 OPS with 29 homers with 98 RBIs in 144 games and be named an American League All-Star for the first time, the former 39th-round Draft pick was expected to be a key part of Los Angeles’ lineup this season. But Walsh struggled offensively, hitting .215/.269/.374 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs in 118 games before being shut down with thoracic outlet syndrome on Aug. 24. 

Walsh, who underwent season-ending surgery on Sept. 1, spoke to the media on Friday about his operation and what to expect going forward. Walsh said the injury occurred a few years ago but worsened this season. He believes he might have injured himself pitching when the Angels experimented with him being a two-way player in 2019, saying it caused tightness in his neck and left shoulder. But the good news is that he’s expected to be ready for Spring Training next year.

“It feels great,” Walsh said. “I feel like it’s already moving around well. I’m about two weeks out, and I’m really happy with how I’ve felt so far. They removed the first rib and took the scalene muscle [out of my neck] and clipped my [pectoral muscle]. But I feel like I have good range of motion now and feel good.” 

Walsh said the injury really bothered him over his last six weeks or so of playing, but he tried to battle through it. It just got the point where it wasn’t going to get any better unless he had an operation to alleviate the symptoms. 

Walsh said the full recovery time is about five or six months, but he’ll be cleared to start swinging a bat by around Thanksgiving, which isn’t much different than a normal offseason. But he admitted it was a difficult season for him, and he believes he can return to his previous form after his surgery. 

“I don’t think there is any doubt there was some compensation going on,” Walsh said. “It was just a rough year. Hopefully, I can get healthy and play some of my best baseball moving forward. It was just a really disappointing year for myself and the team.” 

Walsh, though, still made an impact off the field with his charity work. He was named the club’s nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, which is awarded annually to the "player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field."

Walsh, who was honored on the field in a special pregame ceremony before Friday’s game against the Mariners, said he does work with Habitat for Humanity, Retention Church in Atlanta and makes several visits to local children's hospitals and schools. 

“My parents are both from Pittsburgh and Clemente was the entire family’s favorite player, so to be attached to that is really cool,” Walsh said. “But I was watching Noah Syndergaard pitch and I saw that Kyle Gibson raised $100,000, and I watched a Cubs game and Jason Heyward has done a ton of things, so I have a ton of work to do. Hopefully, I can get nominated in the future, because these guys are blowing me out of the water right now.”