Upton healthy, dialed in during strong spring

Maddon 'big fan' of Slegers' stuff; Barria strong in Cactus start against Padres

March 27th, 2021

Angels outfielder has been locked in at the plate all spring.

The four-time All-Star has slashed .378/.425/.811 in 40 Cactus League plate appearances to go along with four home runs and 10 RBIs. Two of his four homers cleared the batter’s eye at the Brewers' American Family Fields of Phoenix.

Upton said a key to his spring success was a healthy offseason, which is something he didn’t get in 2019, after his season was cut short by a right knee injury.

“The last few offseasons, I’ve missed a couple of months of training with either resting an injury or doing some rehab stuff, so I hit the ground running this offseason being able to get my body back in good shape,” Upton said.

In the shortened 2020 season, Upton batted .204 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs. But even in a down year, he finished the season on a 22-game hot streak, during which he batted .303.

Upton, who doubled off of Padres starter Blake Snell in the Angels' 2-0 loss on Saturday, said the changes he made at the end of the 2020 season have transferred over to Spring Training.

“There were some adjustments I made last year, and flaws that I was made aware of throughout last season that I was able to make a correction on at the end of the year,” he said. “Those patterns are carried to the spring and we continue to build on that.”

Injury updates

Aaron Slegers, who hadn’t seen game action since March 4 due to back spasms, has had two positive outings in his return this week. After allowing one hit in one inning against the Royals on Wednesday, he completed 1 2/3 innings, also allowing only one hit, against the Padres on Saturday.

Angels manager Joe Maddon said the club will monitor Slegers’ health, with Opening Day arriving Thursday.

“I’m a big fan of his stuff,” the skipper said. “We just got to make sure he’s healthy.”

Félix Peña has also been held back by injuries and has been sidelined since March 15 with a right hamstring strain. Maddon said Peña has progressed well in his rehab, but the training staff is being cautious with the injury.

“He’s doing well, he’s making a lot of progress, but [the training staff] knows what the injury is and we’re trying to prevent it from happening again,” Maddon said.

Ramos inks Minors deal

The Angels officially signed right-handed reliever AJ Ramos to a Minor League contract.

Ramos, who owns a career 3.08 ERA, was an All-Star in 2016 with the Marlins. A season ago, he pitched just 2 2/3 innings for the Rockies.

Maddon said there is no timeframe for when Ramos will be in the mix, but he did note Ramos’ career numbers.

“I’ve seen him in the past. He was really good with the Marlins in particular,” Maddon said. “He’s had a pretty good track record of being successful, too.”

Barria sharp in spring start

Right-hander Jaime Barria logged two scoreless innings against the Padres in the Angels' last spring game in Tempe, Ariz.

Barria was granted another year of club options for this season. In previous seasons, Barria started and came out of the bullpen for the Angels. He made seven appearances in 2020 -- logging 32 1/3 innings with a 3.62 ERA.

Roster moves

• Relief pitcher Jesse Chavez was released on Friday. The veteran right-hander went 4 1/3 innings in his five Cactus League appearances.

Maddon said Chavez continued to improve throughout the spring.

“He kept getting better. He is a guy we would have liked to keep around,” Maddon said.

• Outfielder Jon Jay was re-signed to a Minor League contract after his release on Friday.

Jay had just two hits in 29 at-bats this spring, but Maddon noted that he “didn’t see a whole lot off” with Jay. The skipper said many factors were considered before the organization offered Jay a Minor League deal.

“So many players have benefited from having Jay around,” Maddon said. “Jay is a winner and any organization that has him becomes better, so a lot of things were considered in regard to bringing him back.”