CLEVELAND — After a slow start to the season, Matt Thaiss’ bat is heating up, and he’s helped the Angels find some stability at a position hit hard by injuries.
The Angels catcher is hitting .432 since going 0 for 12 to start the season, allowing him to settle into the lineup as the Angels navigate injuries with Logan O’Hoppe (torn labrum) and Chad Wallach (concussion).
“It was a slow start, but he wasn’t getting much consistent playing time,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “It’s tough when you’re here in that role and then kind of make an impression, if you will. Logan carried the load for most of it there those first few weeks until he was hurt, and now Thaissy’s getting his chance. I couldn’t be more happy for him, the way he’s handled it and gone about his business.”
The Angels have relied on Thaiss as their starter after he played just four times in the first 15 games, and he responded to the call with five multi-hit performances in his past 15 games, including a two-hit night Friday that boosted his season average to .327.
“It feels good,” Thaiss said. “Anything I can do to help this team win and put together good at-bats, get out there and get on base for the hitters we have in this lineup. Not trying to do any damage or anything like that because of how deep our lineup is. It’s kind of just a passing-the-baton kind of thing.”
He’s had an opportunity to show the progress he’s made at the position after going almost five years without playing it.
Thaiss was a catcher with Virginia prior to being drafted in 2016, but he didn’t pick the position up again until he was with Triple-A Salt Lake in 2021.
After making his major-league debut at catcher last season, Thaiss – who mainly played third base, first base and outfield in the big leagues prior to 2022 – has played exclusively at catcher and designated hitter this season.
“He’s done a heck of a job behind the plate defensively,” Nevin said. “It’s gotten to the point where the pitchers really feel comfortable with him. I think that’s going to start showing in the results with our pitchers, too.
“He’s such a student of it. He works so hard to study it, game planning and everything, and he follows it so well. He creates his own moments really well. Love having him back there.”
SHOHEI AND CATCHER INTERFERENCES
Shohei Ohtani drew his fifth catcher interference of the season Friday in the fifth inning when he hit the glove of Guardians catcher Sam Gallagher mid-swing.
Ohtani has five catcher interferences this season. No other MLB player has more than two.
Nevin believes the quirky stat has come as a result of Ohtani standing back in the box to give him more time to swing – and give himself a higher probability of making contact.
“It’s his bat path,” Nevin said. “He loves to let the ball get deep, and he knows he can get balls deep in the contact space. If a catcher gets too close, it’s just part of it. He knows he can foul balls off back there. He’s not trying to hit the catcher, obviously, but he knows if he can get a piece of the bat on it, it can serve an at-bat.”
WALSH IN TRIPLE-A
First baseman Jared Walsh played the first game of his rehab assignment in Triple-A on Friday, going 0 for 2 with two walks.
Nevin said Walsh will play five or six innings again Saturday and see how he feels after the weekend before judging how many more games he’ll need before joining the team.
“He felt great,” Nevin said. “He did say his timing was way off, but (I said), ‘Yeah, you haven’t played baseball in a long time.’ That’s the least of our worries. He came out feeling great and he woke up feeling great.”
AROUND THE BASES
Nevin said catcher Chad Wallach (concussion) has a “good chance” to come off the 7-day injured list Monday when the Angels start their next series in Baltimore. …
Top prospect Jo Adell is hitting .290 with a .390 on-base percentage and has totaled 13 home runs, which leads the Pacific Coast League. Nevin called Adell’s work “outstanding.” …
Angels (LHP Patrick Sandoval, 3-1, 3.41 ERA) at Guardians (RHP Tanner Bibee, 1-1, 4.30 ERA), 8:35 a.m. Sunday, Peacock, 830 AM
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