Joe Maddon confirms Dexter Fowler will start in right field despite slow spring

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 15: Dexter Fowler #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats.
Dexter Fowler will be the Angels' starting right fielder despite a slow start in spring training. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Angels defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 3-2 at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Thursday.

FOWLER HOMERS IN B GAME: There was a notable absence in the Angels’ lineup Thursday, with right fielder Dexter Fowler instead playing in a B game in order to get extra at-bats as he works on “shortening” his swing, according to manager Joe Maddon. Fowler went three for four with a home run.

Maddon also confirmed that Fowler remains the team’s primary option in right field, even after a three-for-20 start to Cactus League play. Juan Lagares, who looks likely to make the team as its fourth outfielder, played right field in Thursday’s main game in Fowler’s absence. Even after going 0 for 3 in the contest, Lagares is batting .400 this spring.

“Right now, the game plan is Dex will be out there,” Maddon said of right field, adding: “I like Lagares a lot. I think he’s going to be quite a find for us. But Dexter is here for a reason.”

ON THE MOUND: After walking his first batter, Andrew Heaney was in total control the rest of the day. The left-hander struck out eight batters in a scoreless five-inning start, inducing 18 swings and misses while giving up one hit and two walks.

Patrick Sandoval pitched two innings out of the bullpen, giving up only one run on a home run while striking out two. Reliever Aaron Slegers did not pitch as scheduled because of tightness, Maddon said. Slegers has been dealing with back spasms.

AT THE PLATE: Mike Trout reached base in each of his three trips to the plate, hitting a single and walking twice. Justin Upton, Kurt Suzuki and José Iglesias collected one hit each.

UP NEXT: Opening day starter Dylan Bundy will pitch Friday when the Angels face the Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium. The game begins at 1:05 p.m. TV: Fox Sports West. Radio: AM 830.

WEDNESDAY

Angels pitcher José Quintana solid in spring training start against Mariners

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jose Quintana throws against the Colorado Rockies.
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jose Quintana throws against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 6, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

PEORIA, Ariz. — The Angels defeated the Seattle Mariners, 7-4 in seven innings, in a spring training game Wednesday.

ON THE MOUND: José Quintana turned in another solid start, posting his fourth straight scoreless Cactus League outing in 3 2/3 innings against the Mariners. He walked three batters and gave up two hits, but he relied on a sharp changeup and improved fastball command and finished with six strikeouts. Reliever Ty Buttrey threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out one batter without giving up a hit.

AT THE PLATE: Batting in the leadoff spot, Shohei Ohtani reached base twice with a walk and single, lining the base hit the other way when the Mariners infield was shifted to his pull side. He is hitting .600 this spring. Infielders Franklin Barreto and Luis Rengifo — who appear to be the top candidates for the final infield spot on the opening day roster — both had good games. Barreto hit a home run, improving his spring batting average to .368. Rengifo had two hits, raising his average to .316. Taylor Ward also went three for three. Jo Adell had a hit with two RBIs, and also made a nice running catch in right field. Brandon Marsh hit a triple off former Angels reliever Keynan Middleton, lining a line drive with 100-mph exit velocity into the right-center-field gap. It was his second triple of the spring.

EXTRA BASES: Reliever Félix Peña will miss two to four weeks, manager Joe Maddon said, after an MRI revealed he suffered a right hamstring strain … The Angels reassigned nine players to minor league camp, including prospects Jordyn Adams and Jeremiah Jackson.

UP NEXT: The Angels host the Milwaukee Brewers at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Thursday at 1 p.m. Andrew Heaney will pitch. TV: Fox Sports West. Radio: 830.

TUESDAY

Angels' Shohei Ohtani unloads another mammoth home run against sloppy Cleveland

Angels' Shohei Ohtani grounds into a force out.
Angels' Shohei Ohtani bats against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday in Tempe, Ariz. (Matt York / Associated Press)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels beat the Cleveland Indians 17-8 in a spring training game Tuesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

ON THE MOUND: Griffin Canning’s numbers were good in his third Cactus League start: four innings, 72 pitches, two runs, five strikeouts — giving him a team-high 13 strikeouts in 7⅔ innings overall this spring. But it’s the health of his right throwing elbow that has the 24-year-old equally encouraged.

“This is the best my elbow has felt in a while,” said Canning, who has battled elbow inflammation and joint irritation over his first two MLB seasons.

Reliever Jesse Chavez struggled, giving up six runs, five hits and one walk without recording an out. Left-hander Alex Claudio threw a scoreless inning. Prospect Chris Rodriguez stranded two singles in a scoreless inning. Right-hander Kyle Keller had two hitless innings with three strikeouts.

AT THE PLATE: Shohei Ohtani cleared the batter’s eye for the second time this spring, hammering a mammoth two-run blast off reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber for his fourth home run in the Cactus League. Ohtani, David Fletcher, Juan Lagares, Albert Pujols and Kean Wong each had two hits. The Angels also benefited from five errors by the Indians. Of the 17 runs Cleveland pitchers gave up, only four were earned.

EXTRA BASES: Reliever Félix Peña had an MRI exam Tuesday, a day after being forced to leave a game because of right hamstring irritation. . . . Justin Upton was back in the lineup after being sick Monday. . . . A group of Angels played a B-game against the Colorado Rockies in Scottsdale. Catcher Max Stassi hit a home run in the game.

UP NEXT: The Angels have a night game Wednesday, traveling to Peoria to face the Seattle Mariners at 6:40 p.m. TV: Fox Sports West. Radio: AM 830.

MONDAY

Shohei Ohtani displays opposite-field power with two homers in Angels' loss to Reds

Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani bats.
Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani bats during a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday in Tempe, Ariz. (Matt York / Associated Press)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels lost to the Cincinnati Reds 7-3 in a spring training game Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

OHTANI OPPO POWER: Shohei Ohtani wasn’t expecting a breaking pitch. He didn’t even think he made a good swing. The ball, he said, only “tapped the bat.” It cleared the left-field fence for a home run anyway.

The blast was the first of two opposite-field homers Ohtani hit Monday, continuing his sizzling Cactus League campaign. He is batting .563 with a 1.681 on-base-plus-slugging this spring.

Through his translator, Ohtani said the opposite-field power — his second home run Monday was a no-doubter halfway up the grass berm in left-center — has been an encouraging sign as he tries to rebound from a poor 2020 season. He said the return to a full-time, two-way schedule has aided his rhythm as a hitter too.

“It feels really natural for me to step [to the plate] after throwing,” said Ohtani, who last pitched Saturday. “I’m seeing the ball really well.”

Added manager Joe Maddon: “He’s in a better spot in the box balancewise, handswise, seeing the ball. There’s no reason to believe that this will not continue, what you’re seeing right now.”

ON THE MOUND: Alex Cobb didn’t feel like he had his best stuff. He produced his third solid spring start nonetheless. In 3⅔ innings, Cobb gave up one run and two hits. After escaping a two-out jam in a one-run first inning, he retired his final seven batters, striking out three. In 7⅔ total innings this spring, Cobb has a 2.35 ERA … Rule 5 draft pick Jose Alberto Rivera made his first Cactus League appearance, retiring all three batters he faced with one strikeout.

INJURY REPORT: Outfielder Justin Upton was a late scratch from the lineup with what the team called a non-COVID related illness. Reliever Félix Peña exited the game after 17 pitches with right hamstring irritation. Maddon didn’t immediately have a timetable for how long either player might be out.

UP NEXT: Griffin Canning will take the mound Tuesday as the Angels host the Cleveland Indians in Tempe. First pitch is at 1:10 p.m. TV: Fox Sports West. Radio: AM 83.

Updates:
5:29 PM, Mar. 18, 2021: This story includes Angels exhibition game recaps for Monday through Thursday.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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