Taylor Ward was not supposed to be an every day type of player for the Los Angeles Angels. In fact, he didn’t even start the season on the 26-man roster, with the Angels opting for Juan Lagares to fill out the fourth outfielder spot. However, injuries to Dexter Fowler and others opened up an opportunity for Ward, who now has become the team’s starting right fielder.
Ward has had some hot streaks and cold streaks thus far, but has settled into a slash line of .240/.322/.442. It’s not elite by any stretch, but it’s certainly acceptable for a player who started the season in the Minor Leagues. He has even earned enough trust from manager Joe Maddon to start in the No. 3 spot in the lineup when the normal options are injured.
Ward spoke about the confidence he’s built thanks to Maddon’s faith in him and what it’s meant for his performance, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“It’s a mindset going to bed, knowing you can prepare yourself better,” Ward said. “I love the confidence that (Manager) Joe (Maddon) has in me to go out there. It’s great. It’s everything.”
“I think it’s getting better and better,” Ward said. “To be on time and just feel and stay within yourself. The biggest thing for me to get better every day goes back to swinging at good pitches.”
Maddon gave his thoughts on what he’s seen from Ward and why he trusts him to play such a vital role for the team.
“It’s a better path to the ball,” Maddon said. “If you remember what his problems were when he got too steep and was swinging totally uphill, they were beating him with elevated fastballs. They can’t do that anymore. He is able to cover.”
All of this came before Ward belted his first career grand slam on Thursday night against the Detroit Tigers. His home run cemented an Angels victory and the third win of the season for Shohei Ohtani as a pitcher.
It not only showed what he’s capable of as a hitter, but also why Maddon was right to turn to him when the chips were down and players were injured left and right. Now, Ward has earned himself a spot in one of the better offensive lineups in baseball.
Ohtani succeeds in first full capacity home game since 2019
The Angels two-way star was excited to pitch in front of a packed Angel Stadium crowd for the first time since 2018 before he underwent Tommy John surgery. His excitement turned to results, as he pitched a remarkable six innings, allowing just one run via a Jonathan Schoop solo homer.