Ward staking claim to role with Angels

September 19th, 2020

Outfielder has quietly put together a solid season offensively and is playing his way into the Angels’ plans in 2021 and beyond, much like Jared Walsh has done at first base.

Ward, 26, has been on fire this month, hitting .464 (13-for-28) with four doubles and a triple in 11 games entering Friday’s series opener against the Rangers. He’s impressed manager Joe Maddon, who believes that Ward has made the necessary changes to his swing to become a productive Major League hitter. He entered the season with a career .181/.256/.333 slash line in 60 games over the previous two seasons.

"I've been a fan since I met him in camp," Maddon said. "His only issue was he had someone teach him to try to lift the ball. But he's making the adjustments. It's a very nuanced game, and he's starting to understand what's going to help him become a Major League player."

Ward credited hitting coaches Jeremy Reed, Paul Sorrento and John Mallee for helping him make those adjustments with his swing. It’s helped him drive the ball more the other way and use the whole field instead of trying to pull everything to left field.

Ward has had success in the Minors, including hitting .323/.432/.568 with 35 homers and 106 RBIs in 166 career games with Triple-A Salt Lake. But now it's starting to translate with the Angels.

“Once I began my swing, I needed to stay on plane with the ball more. As it's coming down, I want to match that with my bat path,” Ward said. “And as I was starting my swing, I would go underneath the ball flight and then get back up to the where I'd have to make contact and that would give me a small window to make consistent contact. So if I was a little late, I would swing and miss or foul it back instead of being a little late and lining it into you know, right field or the right-center-field gap.”

Ward could offer the Angels some versatility going forward, as he was drafted as a catcher out of Fresno State as a first-round pick in 2015 before being converted to third base in 2018. Ward is now being used as a corner outfielder but could still serve as a third catcher, if needed.

“I am happy to be like the third-string catcher on our roster,” Ward said. “That excites me and I still love it back there. I do believe outfield or just being out from behind there will be the best fit for me in the future but whatever this team needs, I am there for it.”

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