CLEVELAND — Angels outfielder Mickey Moniak couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present. The Encinitas native will turn 25 and be in the lineup for the first time this season Saturday against the Cleveland Guardians.
Moniak, who was hitting .308 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs for Triple-A Salt Lake, joined the team in Cleveland and was in uniform for the three-game series opener on Friday night.
“I definitely didn’t expect it, but I did everything I could to put myself in a good situation if I got the call,” he said. “It’s great to be back and be around the guys. To be in a situation with a team that is in position to win the AL West is definitely exciting.”
The first overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft made an inspired push to make the Angels’ Opening Day roster, batting .409 in 18 spring training games. Moniak also had a .435 on-base percentage with three home runs and 11 RBIs in Cactus League play, but it wasn’t enough.
The sting of being demoted to the Bees was still there as he spoke in the dugout at Progressive Field.
“I wasn’t too pumped to be going down to Salt Lake, but I understand it’s a business,” Moniak said. “I felt good in spring training and I think I showed the baseball player I could be.
“But the way this team is built, we’re stacked in the outfield and I understand that.”
Manager Phil Nevin said the upcoming schedule and opponents factored into the decision to recall Moniak. The Angels will face a steady diet of right-handers during a stretch of 13 games in 13 days that began Friday.
The left-handed hitting Moniak also will allow outfielders Mike Trout, Hunter Renfroe and Taylor Ward – all righties – to have a day off.
“Mickey is definitely going to get some games this week,” Nevin said. “We’ve got a big string of righties and I’ve got to get our outfielders some days. It will be good to get him in some platoon situations.”
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL
Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval will start against Guardians right-hander Tanner Bibee in the series finale on Sunday. They were high school baseball teammates at Mission Viejo and remained in touch after Sandoval was drafted by Houston in 2015.
“When I knew him, he was short, but puberty hit him hard,” Sandoval said, laughing. “I just talked with him and he’s taller than me now.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Bibee, a fifth-round pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2021, is one of Cleveland’s top prospects and made his major league debut on April 26. He has a 1-1 record and a 4.30 ERA through three starts.
“He’s a stud and he competes his ass off,” said Sandoval, who is listed at 6-3 and 190. “He always knew how to pitch and once he got to college, he really took off. It will be really cool for us to play against each other for the first time.”
To make room for Moniak on the 26-man roster, first baseman Jake Lamb was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake. Lamb had a .216 average and struck out 15 times in 51 at-bats, but he was a strong presence in the clubhouse.
The Angels had the ability to option Lamb in the first 45 days of the season, based on the minor-league deal he signed in the offseason, without designating him for assignment. They did so on the 43rd.
“That was a tough one because he’s a good leader and a complete pro,” Nevin said. “He had a big home run in Milwaukee (on April 30) and helped us win games. He has some options, so I’m going to check in with him in a little bit.”
AROUND THE BASES
First baseman Jared Walsh (headaches, insomnia), who has been on the 10-day injured list since March 29, began his rehab assignment with Salt Lake and is likely to remain there for a week. …
Catcher Chad Wallach (concussion) was placed on the 7-day IL retroactive to May 7 and will be “ramping up a little bit the next couple days,” according to Nevin. …
Shohei Ohtani has never pitched at Progressive Field and won’t do so this weekend. The two-way superstar is scheduled for his next start on Monday in Baltimore.
Angels (LHP Reid Detmers, 0-3, 5.10 ERA) at Guardians (RHP Cal Quantrill, 2-2, 3.89), Saturday, 3:10 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM
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