Notes: Shohei's next start on hill; Ward in OF

May 23rd, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Two-way star is tentatively scheduled to make his next start on the mound on Friday against the A’s in Oakland, manager Joe Maddon said Saturday.

Ohtani’s last start came on Wednesday against Cleveland and his velocity was noticeably down, as his fastball was more than five mph slower from his season average. Ohtani, however, was solid in the outing, allowing two runs over 4 2/3 innings, and insisted he’s healthy. He is essentially getting two days of extra rest, as his next start would’ve come on Wednesday if he stayed on schedule after an off-day on Monday.

"It's going to be Friday, as of right now," Maddon said. "He's been good. I check in every night. I checked in again last night and wanted to make sure he felt great. But other than the velocity on the gun, he really hasn't complained about anything. And he wasn't even complaining about that. I try to do my due diligence with him daily, and he says he feels fine."

Ohtani, who was tied for the American League lead in home runs entering Saturday, has been a constant for the Angels, appearing in 43 of the club's 46 games as a hitter, while also making six pitching starts. He's been in the lineup for his starts four times this season -- the only time he's been held out of the lineup was in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Twins on Thursday.

It’s up to Ohtani, who's been wanting to play in every game, to indicate to Maddon how he’s feeling. But Maddon said he has to check Ohtani’s fatigue levels because he’s been playing so much. It also helps that the club has an off-day coming up after a stretch of 12 games in 11 days.

"We have the off-day coming up, which is going to be very helpful, too," Maddon said. "I'm going to look to give him another day [off] in there somewhere. We need to be a little bit more proactive, and I'm going to talk to him about that."

Ward adapting to the outfield

Taylor Ward has improved his versatility over the years.

He was drafted as a catcher in 2015, eventually moved to third base and is now a fixture at all three outfield spots for the Angels this season. Maddon said he’s comfortable with Ward anywhere in the outfield, and added that he’d like to see him return to action at third and first base next season to continue to improve his defensive abilities around the diamond.

“It’s all been very positive, down to his running speed and his jumps,” Maddon said. “He has all the stuff you look for in a good outfielder and he has a knack for the ball. He works hard, listens well and if anybody accepts constructive criticism as well as he does, I'd like to meet that person, because he's wide open to suggestion and I love that. I like him in the outfield and the one thing that's intriguing to me would [be] getting him back at first and third. Eventually, that's something he can mess with, but not right now."

Ward said he’s comfortable in all three outfield spots and feels he’s adapted well to playing center field despite not having much experience there in the Minors. He said it all comes from the early work he does before the games.

"For me, it's all about reps," Ward said. "And especially going from third base and being able to move farther away from home plate, it just made outfield so much easier. The footwork and everything that's involved in the infield made the outfield pretty simple. So, wherever the team needs me, I'm there for it. But I do like the outfield."

Angels tidbits

• Reliever Junior Guerra was reinstated from the injured list after being out since May 10 with a right groin strain. Guerra had a 6.00 ERA in 13 outings before going on the IL and gave up six runs in 2 1/3 innings over his last three appearances. Lefty Dillon Peters was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake to make room on the roster.

• Catcher Max Stassi, who has been out since May 4 with a concussion, began participating in baseball activities on Saturday. Maddon said Stassi has been feeling great, but that it’s too early for a return target date.

• Lefty Andrew Heaney will start Tuesday against the Rangers, while right-hander Griffin Canning gets the nod on Wednesday. The club has not yet announced a starter for Thursday.