ANAHEIM — As Mickey Moniak continues eating away at Taylor Ward’s playing time in the outfield, it raises a couple of questions.
Is Moniak really this good?
Is Ward really this bad?
While we don’t know the answers to either, Angels manager Phil Nevin is hoping that Moniak can sustain this improvement and Ward will bounce back.
Ward was on the bench for a second straight game on Monday, which is a reflection of a slump that has dragged his batting average down to .227 and his OPS to .622.
Those numbers are worse even than Ward’s .230 and .693 marks from before the breakout season in 2022 that set such high expectations for him this year.
Nevin said he still has those expectations for Ward, 29.
“I’m on record saying between Mike (Trout) and Shohei (Ohtani) I have two legitimate MVP-caliber guys, and (Anthony Rendon) has been in that conversation before,” Nevin said. “There’s no reason with the talent that Taylor has that he’s not in that conversation as well. And I still feel that way. When he’s going right, he’s one of the best hitters in this game. Our job is to get him going right again.”
Nevin said Ward was among the hitters out taking early batting practice against live pitching on Monday, trying to iron out some of his issues.
“With him, it’s timing,” Nevin said. “As things snowball, you want to swing and swing more. For him, that can be a little bit of a detriment. He’s got such good knowledge of the strike zone, such good swing awareness. He swings at the right pitches when he’s going great.
“And right now he’s kind of caught in between, if you will, whether it’s timing or anything like that. So I know they’re working hard. He’s working hard. Been out here every day. It bothers him, as it would anybody that’s putting on a uniform. Like I said, we’re a better team when Taylor Ward is playing left and he’s at the top of his game. And we expect to get him back there.”
While they wait for Ward, though, they are not missing a beat because of Moniak’s hot streak. He was hitting .417 with a 1.273 OPS through his first 25 plate appearances.
As great as that is, there is still some caution with Moniak, who had a .167 average and .486 OPS over his 167 major league plate appearances before this season.
Moniak, 25, is a former No. 1 overall draft pick, who also had a nice spring and did well in Triple-A, so all of that bodes well for him being able to sustain a higher level of production than his first opportunities in the majors.
“I love what he’s doing,” Nevin said. “He’s had big at-bats early. He had a big at-bat late yesterday and he drove in two runs. Is it sustainable? Absolutely. I think so. The league always adjusts quickly to guys when they come on the scene like this, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s about making adjustments on both sides, but he’s doing everything he’s been asked and then some. That’s why he’s getting another start tonight.”
Third baseman Anthony Rendon (groin strain) still has not begun on-field activity, but Nevin said he still doesn’t expect Rendon to be out long. He would be eligible to return on Wednesday. “But hopefully it’s not much longer than that,” Nevin said. “He’s starting to progress and ramp up the things he’s doing inside. …
The Angels’ off day on Thursday allows them to juggle their rotation this weekend. Nevin said Ohtani will pitch on his normal turn on Saturday, but they are undecided on what to do on Friday and Sunday, with Patrick Sandoval and Reid Detmers as the two available pitchers for those games. …
Nevin reiterated that the Angels’ decision to move right-hander Chase Silseth to the bullpen does not close the door on him starting eventually. Silseth, 23, has been more successful in his brief big league opportunities pitching in relief, so the Angels feel that’s where he helps them win right now.
Red Sox (RHP Brayan Bello, 3-1, 4.45 ERA) at Angels (RHP Griffin Canning, 2-2, 6.14 ERA), Tuesday, 6:38 p.m., Angel Stadium, Bally Sports West, 830 AM
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