MILWAUKEE — Taylor Ward wasn’t expecting to go through what he’s endured in April.
“I was honestly hoping I would never have to worry about this stuff, but it is what it is,” the Angels outfielder said. “Just stay positive and keep trusting yourself.”
Last season Ward was one of the best hitters in baseball at the beginning and end of the season, when he was healthy. It was the result of swing changes he had been making over the previous few years, which he believed locked in his mechanics to the point that he’d be consistently productive as long as he was healthy.
“My swing is so simple that I really shouldn’t be having these problems,” Ward said.
The problems included a .224 batting average and a .673 OPS heading into Friday night’s game. He was hitting .151 with a .508 OPS over his previous 15 games.
Ward, who had an .833 OPS last season, said he thinks the problems began when he was trying to “cheat” to get to sinkers on the inside part of the plate.
“I think there’s been a snowball effect,” Ward said. “I’m pulling off balls. I think that’s contributing to my overthinking. I have to get back to what was right. I just need to stay through balls and get it going over the middle.”
Ward rebuilt his swing under the direction of Trent Woodward, a former college teammate who has become something of a hitting guru. The Angels hired Woodward as a hitting consultant this year, and he was in Milwaukee on Friday.
Manager Phil Nevin continues to put Ward in the leadoff spot, despite his slump, because he said Ward is still having quality at-bats. Ward is drawing enough walks to have a .336 on-base percentage, which is a little above the major league average.
Ideally, though, Ward will not rely on walks to boost his numbers.
“I’m not leading him off to be a little guy that gets on and runs around and steals bases,” Nevin said. “I want him to hit one in the seats the first batter of the game. … He’s got a great idea about the strike zone but I want him to stay aggressive. And I think he’s gotten away from that a little bit lately. A little passive.”
Nevin actually said he was happy to see Ward put the first pitch in play twice on Thursday. He had a single and a fly out on those swings.
“I saw some good swings yesterday,” Nevin said. “So I’m encouraged about it.”
The Angels will start Patrick Sandoval on Tuesday in St. Louis, followed by Shohei Ohtani on Wednesday and Griffin Canning on Thursday. Tyler Anderson and Reid Detmers will then work the first two games of the homestand next weekend. Nevin said he wants to keep Sandoval and Ohtani on their normal sixth day as much as possible, but he didn’t want to push Canning back too far. …
Right-hander Ryan Tepera (shoulder inflammation) was scheduled to make the first of two rehab appearances for Class-A Inland Empire on Friday night. Tepera is eligible to be activated for the series in St. Louis. …
Right-hander Chris Rodriguez (shoulder surgery) is throwing, but he’s not pitching off a mound or facing hitters. Rodriguez had a setback earlier this month, and now he’s in a holding pattern, with no timetable for his return. …
Left-hander Ky Bush, one of the Angels’ top pitching prospects, missed much of spring training with an oblique injury, and he suffered a groin injury while throwing in extended spring training earlier this week, according to General Manager Perry Minasian.
Angels (LHP Reid Detmers, 0-1, 4.15) vs. Brewers (RHP Corbin Burnes, 2-1, 4.55), Saturday, 4:10 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM
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