MINNEAPOLIS -- Two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who has been in a slump since participating in the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game, was held out of the Angels’ lineup on Friday with left-hander J.A. Happ starting for the Twins.
Ohtani, who leads the Majors with 34 homers, has scuffled a bit to open the second half, as he's batted .167 (4-for-24) with a homer, a double and 14 strikeouts in six games. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the series opener against the Twins on Thursday. Angels manager Joe Maddon was asked if he believes Ohtani’s funk was caused by participating in the Derby.
“It's easy to say, but I really don't,” Maddon said. “[Hitting coach] Jeremy [Reed] actually thought he was late more than he was early in his approach recently. I think he was just out of the zone chasing pitches. Before, he was very disciplined and accepted his walks. I see it more as getting his strike zone organized again.”
He’s also fared a little better against righties than lefties this year, hitting .273/.374/.675 with 23 homers and 53 RBIs in 243 plate appearances against right-handers while batting .267/.323/.664 with 11 homers and 21 RBIs in 127 plate appearances against lefties.
It gives Ohtani a rare day off, as he’s appeared in 90 of the club’s 96 games as a hitter. He's also made 14 starts on the mound, going 4-1 with a 3.21 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 73 innings. He’s batted for himself in 11 of those outings. His next start is slated to come on Monday against the Rockies at Angel Stadium.
“He didn’t ask for this day,” Maddon said. “This was my idea. I still want to be cognizant of rest with him. And he’s pitching on Monday, so it just made sense.”
First baseman Jared Walsh was also held out of the lineup with Happ on the mound, though he made an appearance as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and stayed in the game as a defensive replacement at first base. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout in the 5-4 loss. Walsh, an All-Star like Ohtani, is hitting .185 (5-for-27) in six games in the second half. Walsh is also much better against righties, hitting .328/.392/.620 with 15 homers against them compared to .164/.190/.361 with seven homers against lefties.
“Because of Happ, I wanted to give Shohei and Walsh both a day and wanted to get other guys involved,” Maddon said. “Just a perfect example of the schedule dictating the things you should do.”
With Ohtani and Walsh out, Justin Upton got the nod at DH, while Phil Gosselin started at first base. It also allowed Juan Lagares to start in left field.
“With J-Up back, and him coming off playing yesterday, it was a good DH day for him," Maddon said. “And it gets Lagares in the lineup because I don’t want him sitting forever.”
Angels reach agreement with second-rounder Bush
The club, however, has not officially announced the signing.
Bush is listed at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds and has a fastball that can touch 96 mph with deception. His best secondary pitch is a slider and he also has a slow curveball, but his changeup is a work in progress. There's a chance he ends up a reliever, but the Angels profile him as a starter.
He had a breakout season at St. Mary's College, as his 112 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings led the West Coast Conference and was the fifth most in a season in school history.
Minasian releases statement on ESPN report
Angels general manager Perry Minasian released a statement regarding an ESPN report in which Angels Minor Leaguers pointed out they have substandard living conditions due to low pay. Players from Double-A Rocket City and Class A Inland Empire told ESPN that as many as six players share a three-bedroom apartment while others had to resort to living in a trailer park.
“What is being reported is unacceptable,” Minasian said in a statement. “And we will look into it and address it.”
• Right-hander Jaime Barria was at Target Field on Friday and is expected to start against the Twins on Sunday, but he hasn’t been officially called up. Barria has a 10.50 ERA in two relief appearances with the Angels this season and a 4.41 ERA in 10 starts with Triple-A Salt Lake. His last start came on Tuesday, so he'll be fully stretched out and on regular rest.
• Led by Cuba natives José Iglesias and Raisel Iglesias, several Angels players -- and Maddon -- wore T-shirts during batting practice showing their support for Cuban people. The shirt, which was in Spanish and featured both the American and Cuban flags, translated to "homeland and life," and "long live free Cuba." Maddon said he was proud to wear it.
"I've been working on a project back in Pennsylvania called the Hazleton Integration Project and it's all about bringing Hispanic and Anglo cultures together," Maddon said. "I'm very pro the Latin community in any way, shape or form and have a lot of good friends from Cuba."