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Angels’ Jared Walsh hopeful after injury-shortened season

TEMPE, Ariz. — The rollercoaster of Jared Walsh’s career began with him as an unheralded 39th-round draft pick, peaked with an inspiring All-Star Game appearance in 2021, and crashed with a disappointing season and surgery in 2022.

Now the Angels’ first baseman is trying not to think about how 2023 could be viewed as a season to prove a point to the detractors.

“I really just want to hit a round ball with a round bat square,” Walsh said Saturday. “If I’m worried about proving other people wrong, there are always going to be naysayers. For me, it’s just go out and enjoy what I’m doing. And I think everything will take care of itself.”

After hitting 29 home runs with an .850 OPS in 2021, his first full big-league season, Walsh slumped to 15 homers with a .642 OPS before finally giving way to thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in August.

Doctors removed a rib from Walsh’s left side, freeing up his range of motion.

Asked if he’s 100% now, Walsh said: “It feels like it. I feel like I keep getting stronger, but I feel great right now, so no complaints. I feel like I’m full go. I can make throws, hit on the field, do everything.”

Walsh, 29, said he’d been dealing with the condition for a couple of years. It mostly affected his throwing, but it would carry over to the plate.

“The pulsing, achy, tingly feeling really isn’t there at all,” Walsh said. “I’d like to keep it that way, because that was kind of annoying.”

Walsh said last season he would step into the box “not having a ton of confidence and going out there and trying to hit the best pitchers in the world.”

In the final month before succumbing to surgery, Walsh hit .108 with a .392 OPS.

After a winter of rehab, he is now preparing to be the Angels’ everyday first baseman, with some new wrinkles. The Angels have added Gio Urshela and Brandon Drury, a couple of right-handed hitters who could start at first against lefties. Walsh has a career .600 OPS against lefties, compared with .834 against righties.

The Angels also plan to experiment with putting Walsh in the outfield, which they could not have done while he was having the arm issues.

“Any way I can work my way into the lineup, I want to do it,” Walsh said. “We’ve made some really nice additions this winter, so however I can play, I’m willing to do it.”

VERDICTS ARE IN

The Angels won their arbitration case against Urshela, so they will pay him $8.4 million instead of the $10 million he requested.

Arbitrators sided with outfielder Hunter Renfroe in his case, awarding him $11.9 million instead of the $11.25 million the Angels offered.

Earlier this week, the Angels learned that infielder Luis Rengifo had won his case, receiving $2.3 million instead of $2 million.

With all the cases settled, the Angels’ payroll is now about $212 million, or about $227 million for purposes of the luxury tax. The first luxury tax threshold is at $233 million.

NOTES

Urshela, Rengifo, Mike Trout, David Fletcher and Aaron Whitefield faced left-handers Tyler Anderson and Reid Detmers during the first live batting practice sessions of the spring. Normally position players would not hit against live pitching this early, but those hitters are on an accelerated schedule because they are playing in the World Baseball Classic. …

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The Angels began using digital timers in the bullpen and on the field during batting practice, in order to prepare the players for the pitch timer that will be used in the regular season. …

Angels position players will undergo physicals on Sunday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Monday. The only position player who hasn’t already been participating in workouts is infielder Andrew Velazquez.

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