Ward fully recovered from season-ending HBP

February 15th, 2024

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels left fielder is getting close to facing live pitching for the first time since being hit in the head by a 91.7 mph sinker from Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah that ended his season on July 29.

Ward arrived to Angels camp on Wednesday and said he’s fully healthy after sustaining multiple facial fractures, as he had three plates inserted in his face and underwent a reconstruction of his nose in early August. But it’s almost impossible to notice any scarring, and Ward said he’s been taking batting practice for roughly a month without any issues and will step up to facing live pitching on Saturday.

Ward said it was a difficult ordeal, but he’s put it past him and doesn’t have any issues talking about what he went through. He also doesn’t believe it’ll be a mental issue to step back into the batter’s box again, but he did get fitted for a helmet with a C-Flap as soon as he arrived at his locker.

“I’m feeling great and just excited to get back in there,” Ward said. “I’ll have my C-Flap on, which will help me out and probably would’ve helped me out through all of this. But I feel good mentally. The first one that comes right at my face, I’ll be like, ‘Whoa,’ but after that, it's the game of baseball. It is what it is, and I try not to think about it.”

He said the scariest moment was right after he was hit by the pitch, because he wasn’t sure how much the injury was going to affect his quality of life, let alone his baseball career. Ward also had trouble seeing out of his left eye and worried that it was lacerated and his vision would be permanently damaged.

But Ward praised assistant athletic trainer Eric Munson for helping him keep calm, and he decided in the moment to just roll with whatever was coming.

“I think the worst part was just being unsure of where my life was going at that point,” Ward said. “After Eric Munson came over and put a towel over my face, I kind of accepted where I was. I just kind of went into a numbing-like feeling. And when they checked me out, there wasn’t much concern on their face, so that was comforting.”

Ward underwent a CT scan that revealed he didn’t suffer a concussion or any damage to his brain, which was a huge sigh of relief. But Ward suffered fractures to his orbital bone, jaw and temple and underwent surgery on Aug. 5, which led to an extensive rehab process that lasted several months. Complicating things, Ward couldn’t eat solid foods after the surgery and was limited physically, as he wasn’t allowed to do any exercises that put any pressure on his nose or caused his face to move up and down.

Ward rode a stationary bike to stay in shape and credited his wife, also named Taylor, for helping him get through the rehab process. He said several players reached out, including Justin Turner, who went through a similar ordeal earlier in the 2023 season.

“It was good to hear other people’s perspectives on it,” Ward said. “Thankfully, I’m OK.”

Position players don’t have to report until Sunday, so Ward arrived early, as he said he’s just excited to be back around the game after everything he went through last year.

“Being here and being back with the guys and all the smells and all that, it’s just awesome,” Ward said. “I’m really excited and also really thankful it wasn’t worse, and I can hopefully put this behind me.”

Angels tidbits

• The Angels signed lefty to a Minor League deal on Wednesday, and he arrived at Major League camp. He hasn’t pitched since 2021 after undergoing flexor tendon surgery but was effective as a reliever with the Padres from 2020-21, posting a combined 1.62 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings. The 35-year-old has pitched 11 seasons in the Majors and was an All-Star in 2016.

is the club’s starting first baseman and is tentatively being viewed as the leadoff hitter, manager Ron Washington said. Schanuel, the club’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was called up to the Majors just 40 days after being the No. 11 overall selection in the 2023 Draft. He reached base in all 29 games he played in and posted a .402 on-base percentage.