KANSAS CITY -- The Angels recouped their leadoff hitter on Thursday, as second baseman Ian Kinsler was activated off the 10-day disabled list ahead of the club's 7-1 win over the Royals in their series opener at Kauffman Stadium. He made an immediate impact.Facing Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy, Kinsler hit
KANSAS CITY -- The Angels recouped their leadoff hitter on Thursday, as second baseman Ian Kinsler was activated off the 10-day disabled list ahead of the club's 7-1 win over the Royals in their series opener at Kauffman Stadium. He made an immediate impact.
Facing Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy, Kinsler hit the second pitch of the game out to left field. It was his first home run for the Angels.
Kinsler had appeared in only previous one game this season before sustaining a left adductor strain. Infielder Ryan Schimpf was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake to clear a roster spot for Kinsler, who admitted that he had been anxious to return to action as he watched the Angels jump out to an 11-3 start.
"I've been super antsy the last couple weeks, especially since the team is playing so well," Kinsler said. "It looks like so much fun out there right now, so I wanted to be out there and help any way I could. It took a little bit longer than I think I anticipated, but it's behind me now."
The Angels have outscored opponents 93-48 (+45) over their 14 games this season, and the return of Kinsler should only help deepen the club's already potent lineup.
"Ian's been itching to go now for a couple days, and we wanted to make sure everything's behind him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our medical staff has paid a lot of attention to him. For him to get us on the board in the first inning is something that he's done before, so it was good to see from our side."
Zack Cozart, who had been manning second base in Kinsler's stead, received a day off on Thursday, with Luis Valbuena starting at third.
The Ohtani brief
Shohei Ohtani said Wednesday that he hopes to play well enough to convince the Angels to use him in the lineup more, though Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he believes they're already playing him as much as his two-way schedule will allow.
Over the first couple weeks of the season, Ohtani has hit two to three times a week and pitched once. The Angels' medical staff has kept a close eye on him as he pursues his historic endeavor, assessing his strength levels daily to ensure he's not overextending himself.
"We're playing him as much as we possibly can right now until we get him evaluated," Scioscia said. "We're playing him a lot. I don't think you guys realize that. He's playing a lot. He's doing a lot. Not only on the days he doesn't hit, he's throwing bullpens, he's doing things, so let's get perspective first. He's got a lot on his plate. We definitely want him to be able to manage that. … The thing about we're holding him back is wrong. That's just a wrong perspective."
Ohtani started at designated hitter for Thursday's series opener against the Royals, and he is slated to make his next pitching appearance in Sunday's series finale at Kauffman Stadium.
Middleton the closer?
Keynan Middleton, who earned a five-out save on Wednesday against the Rangers, appears to have unseated Richard Parker as Scioscia's preferred closing option early this season. The 24-year-old right-hander has logged a 1.17 ERA with seven strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings in 2018 and has successfully converted the Angels' last two save opportunities.
Scioscia said Middleton has developed into a back-end arm for the Angels, though he stopped short of naming him the official closer.
"I think Keynan is certainly trying to establish some footprints to be not only part of a Major League bullpen, but the back end of a Major League bullpen," Scioscia said. "I think he has a couple real pluses that can make him really an impact pitcher. One is his length. He used to be a starter, so the ability to go like he did yesterday, he threw 37 pitches and got us five outs. I think that multi-inning look is very important to us right now and will be important for Keynan's development. He's starting to figure something out, for sure."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.