For Los Angeles Angels stars Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, the World Baseball Classic was about winning a title, and it came down to the final at-bat between the two to decide who would hold that crown.
But for a lesser-known Angels representative, it was also an opportunity to learn from other players and build knew relationships.
Luis Rengifo used it as a tool to strengthen his game after a career year in Major League Baseball that saw him post a wRC+ of 103, with 17 homers and 52 runs batted in across 511 plate appearances.
Rengifo seems to have a new sense of who he is as a big-league contributor, and the 26-year-old lends a lot of credit to his time with Team Venezuela in the WBC, where he learned from José Altuve, via Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register:
Rengifo said he spent a lot of time with José Altuve while they were teammates with Venezuela. Previously, the Angels infielder only had a few short conversations with Altuve on the field when the Angels played the Houston Astros.
“Altuve is a leader,” Rengifo said. “He knows what he’s doing before every at-bat. He puts the ball in play every single time. That’s what I want.”
For all of the speedbumps Altuve has in his career with the Astros, one thing that many players who have been around the veteran have been their understanding that he’s a great teammate and a wealth of baseball knowledge. Angels manager Phil Nevin touched on the changes Rengifo incorporated into his game since rejoining the Angels after the WBC:
Nevin said that Rengifo has a slightly more upright stance from the left side now, and that could help his pitch recognition. Rengifo, however, said that one of the changes is the approach that he learned from Altuve.
“I feel more confident every single time when I go in the box,” he said. “I am ready every single time. The game has slowed down.”
The Angels will need Rengifo to just play to his potential as they have the stars around him to carry that extra weight. But if he is able to take another step forward, he could become one of the Angels most important players.
Phil Nevin looking forward to watching Angels chemistry grow
The Angels are in an important season and they have high hopes for 2023. Manager Phil Nevin made some additions to his staff, and the results are already showing with both the pitchers and hitters.
Spring Training wins and losses don’t mean anything, but the club still finished with the best record in the Cactus League. Early into 2023 and the Angels are 3-2 in a tie with the Texas Rangers at the top of the American League West standings.
The defending champion Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners figure to give them fits, but the Rangers are another club to keep an eye out for, creating a logjam that will require the Angels to come together as a unit.
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