Notes: Upton, Eaton manning infield soon?

Mayfield showing progress with complete approach at plate

August 5th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Angels manager Joe Maddon prepares for Interleague games in much the same way generals deep in the Pentagon plan for a surprise attack by aliens: Every possibility, no matter how remote, needs to be war-gamed and a response readied.

That’s why, for instance, outfielder was taking ground balls at first base before the series finale against the Rangers on Thursday. The Halos will head home, or at least to the vicinity, to start the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium on Friday.

Never mind that Upton has never played an inning at first base or anywhere in the infield in 1,768 career MLB games. Or that , whom Maddon also wants to take some ground balls before the Dodgers series, has never played the infield in 862 games.

Maddon wants to be ready in case he has to make multiple double-switches, or in case someone gets injured.

“When it does occur, you do not want to be playing that for the first time,” Maddon said. “You want to be playing that before the game somehow.”

All that planning and prognosticating makes the National League “more of an intellectual version of baseball” to Maddon, who had a 471-339 record as the Cubs’ skipper over five seasons.

“With the weekend coming up and [first baseman Phil Gosselin] being out there pretty much all the time, if something were to happen there, I’m concerned,” Maddon added. “Game in progress, if you have to double-switch, if you’re behind, there’s a lot of different things you would do. So I wanted [Upton] to get some ground balls and Adam Eaton to get some ground balls, too, so that there’s different things that you can do in a National League game.

“You’re counting hitters, you’re counting outs, you’re trying to get this guy to the plate. ‘I gotta do this now, I tried to do that, it didn’t work out that way.’ You just never know. That is the beauty of the National League lineup.”

The easiest thing to do, of course, is get a sizable lead early and play it straight with the lineup, but Maddon knows it won’t be that easy against the defending World Series-champion Dodgers.

“When you’re behind, you’ll do anything,” Maddon said. “Everything goes.”

Mayfield making progress at plate
Third baseman was 3-for-3 with a homer and a double in the Angels’ 2-1 win over the Rangers on Wednesday night. He also homered in Tuesday’s 11-3 victory. After an unproductive July, Mayfield has raised his season OPS more than 100 points, to .694, in just the last four games.

“I was concerned a bit in the beginning, he’s got enough power that he might just be too power-oriented and not playing the full game,” Maddon said. “He’s hit some home runs, and I’ve talked to him about it -- you saw the fly ball down the right-field line yesterday, a double; I saw a line-drive base hit to right field also recently. For me, offensively speaking, if he stays in the whole-field approach, and when the pitcher throws him his home run ball, go ahead and grab it, but I like the game he’s playing right now.”

Dodgers series will test young starters
The Angels will start three young pitchers -- lefty Patrick Sandoval (age 24), righty Jaime Barria (25) and lefty Reid Detmers (22) -- in the three-game series against the Dodgers. Maddon is looking forward to seeing how they handle the test presented by one of the National League’s top teams in a crosstown rivalry series.

“This could be a glimpse into the future,” Maddon said. “All three are very talented. They’re going to face a good lineup in circumstances that they’re not used to, which I also like. The plus side obviously is that if we come through that really well, confidence can really soar. I like whenever we’re involved in a situation that kind of pushes us.”