CHICAGO -- As the final weeks of the season wind down, the Angels have held out hope that various players on the injured list could return before the year is over. On Wednesday, however, manager Joe Maddon was pretty candid with reporters when discussing the chances of that happening.
Jo Adell went on the 10-day IL on Wednesday after sitting out the two games prior to recover from what the team called back soreness, which occurred after he banged into the left-field wall on Saturday against the Astros. Maddon said before Tuesday’s series opener against the White Sox that Adell might be able to participate in the game, but after further conversations with the training staff, the skipper learned that the staff believed it was an injury to Adell's left abdominal that necessitated his placement on the IL.
When asked whether he expected Adell to return to the field this season, Maddon didn’t know if the timing would allow it.
“I mean, those injuries are kind of weird, and they could take longer [to recover from],” he said. “What are we at, two weeks left pretty much? It'd be hard to imagine that. If I had to say, I would anticipate that he wouldn't, but we'll see.”
Adell’s situation then led to questions about the potential return of another injured Angels outfielder: Mike Trout.
The three-time American League MVP hasn’t had much of a chance to compete for a fourth, as Trout has been on the IL since May 18 with a right calf strain. He has continued to rehab over the last four months and he has joined Los Angeles on various road trips, all in an effort to return to the field before the end of the season. Even though the 30-year-old hasn’t played in a game since May 17, Maddon said that Trout is as engaged as anyone on the team.
“The guy is so wanting to be out there,” Maddon said. “You watch him in the dugout every night, he's on every pitch. He comes over, discusses things with me during the course of the game. He's absolutely, totally engaged.”
But will the Angels’ superstar center fielder play again in 2021?
“I don't expect him to play today or tomorrow, or anytime soon, because there's still that process of having to get at-bats,” Maddon said. “... It'd be very difficult.”
Maddon made it clear that he wasn’t giving an official statement on either Trout or Adell’s prospects this year, but rather giving his honest thoughts about the two players’ situations.
In case those official statements do confirm what Maddon believes, he wanted to at least speak on what both players were able to contribute to the Angels this year.
Though Adell played in three fewer games after being recalled on Aug. 2 than in his debut season in 2020, Maddon thought he had improved nearly across the board. In only six more at-bats over the last month-plus than in that pandemic-shortened season, Adell increased his RBI total by 19, struck out 23 fewer times and increased his slash line from .161/.212/.266 to .246/.295/.408.
“I think you have to give him plus grades in everything over last year, right down to his awareness, understanding the game better,” Maddon said. “I think he's on the verge of becoming that guy, that ‘I belong here, I can do this’ kind of a guy, where he can really help you win some games. I think the improvement was dramatic, actually.”
In Trout’s case, his injury has forced him to play in fewer games in 2021 (36) than in his rookie season in 2011 (40, his previous career low). But even if it’s something as simple as buying pizzas for the team -- and making sure the manager gets his green olives -- Maddon thinks of Trout as “the consummate team player.”
So whether or not Trout does see the field for the Angels again this year, his consistent attitude has more than impressed Maddon.
“He's engaged with this group,” he said. “The conversations are wonderful. He wants the Angels to win so badly, and we've just got to work toward that -- and to make sure that he's very healthy.”
Off-field Rengifo update
Maddon declined to comment on reports that an arrest warrant had been issued for Luis Rengifo in Venezuela, his native country, over allegedly falsifying divorce documents. The Angels had also not yet commented on the situation as of Wednesday night.
Rengifo released a statement through his agency:
"I am aware of the allegations in Venezuela and have hired a new attorney to defend me and my family. Due to the pending legal proceedings and investigation phase in Venezuela, I am not permitted to comment any further on this matter."
Rengifo was in the starting lineup for Wednesday night's game against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, and Maddon said he would continue to play the infielder unless circumstances change.
"As far as I'm concerned, until I'm told otherwise, he'll be in there," Maddon said.