'No other thoughts creeping in or negativity' as Ward faces live pitching

February 18th, 2024

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels left fielder took a major step forward on Saturday, facing live pitching for the first time since being hit in the face by a fastball from Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah that caused multiple facial fractures and ended his season last July 29.

Ward faced right-handers Davis Daniel and Travis MacGregor in a live batting practice session and said he felt normal, especially after seeing the first pitch from Daniel. He did see one fastball up and a bit in, but he said it didn’t bother him.

“Seeing that first pitch go by, I think after that, I settled down a little bit,” Ward said. “I got back to my approach and do what I do. That’s really all I was thinking about. I had no other thoughts creeping in or negativity, so happy with where I'm at.”

Ward had three metal plates inserted and underwent a full nose reconstruction in early August, but he was able to have a normal offseason once he had recovered by October. He had been taking batting practice for weeks leading up to facing live pitching on Saturday.

Ward said he’s already been working hard with new hitting coach Johnny Washington, as the two spent several minutes talking hitting after one of his batting-practice sessions on Friday. Ward went through an early-season slump due to an issue with his mechanics last year but was heating up before he was hit by Manoah’s pitch.

“[Washington’s] been great,” Ward said. “Just all positivity. Little things here and there. He seems to be like the piece that we need.”

Strickland, Adrianza arrive to Angels camp

Reliever Hunter Strickland and infielder Ehire Adrianza, who both signed Minor League deals with the Angels on Friday, were in camp and worked out with their new teammates on Saturday. Both players didn’t play much in 2023, as Strickland didn’t pitch in the Majors and was released in May after struggling with Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate, while Adrianza played in just five games with the Braves before undergoing shoulder surgery.

Strickland, 35, said he thought his nine-year career might be over after being released, but he got the itch to keep pitching and stayed in shape before throwing a showcase this offseason. The Angels were one of the clubs who saw him throw and were impressed enough to bring him back for a second time, as he also had a short nine-game stint with the Halos in 2021. He’s joining a crowded bullpen but said it’s his goal to crack the Opening Day roster.

“It’s a healthy competition, which is a good thing,” Strickland said. “We’ll take it day by day. It’s not my goal to pitch [in the Minors]. My goal is to help this team win a championship.”

Adrianza, 34, is plenty familiar with manager Ron Washington, as the 11-year veteran played with the Braves from 2021-2023, when Washington was the club’s third-base and infield coach. Adrianza said his shoulder had been bothering him in recent seasons and he finally had it repaired last year, so he’s healthy now. He’s competing for a backup infield role.

“I’m thrilled to be here, especially with Wash, because I spent the last few years with him with the Braves and he’s the best,” Adrianza said. “It’s just the way he talks to the players and communicates. He lets you be yourself.”

Angels tidbits

• Third baseman Anthony Rendon arrived at camp on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s report date. Angels position players will undergo their physicals on Sunday, and the first official full-squad workout is on Monday. But the Angels have had most of their position players arrive early this year.

• Lefty reliever José Quijada, who is coming off Tommy John surgery last May, said his rehab has been going well and he hasn’t had any issues. He said he doesn’t have a target date for a return in mind but plans to be back at some point this season.

• Lefty José Suarez missed the first few days of camp to attend to a family matter, but he said he’s feeling strong after pitching well in winter ball in Venezuela and losing some weight during the offseason. He’ll be stretched out into a starting role, but his best chance of making the club is as a long reliever. Suarez said he’d be open to any role if it helps the club.