Angels News: Taylor Ward & Ron Washington Discuss Mental Recovery From Face Injury
MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Cleveland Guardians
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Taylor Ward’s 2023 season came to a scary end when he was injured on a pitch to the face. He missed the last two months of the season and did not face live pitching at all between suffering the injury and Spring Training in 2024. Both he and Ron Washington were unsure if he would have any residual effects from the injury when he ultimately did face live pitching again.

Things appeared to be fine for Ward at first. He holds an OPS of .770 in 15 Spring games, a sign that things are, at the very least, going to be okay for him as he gets back into rhythm. But one at-bat in particular put Ward on high alert. He was on the receiving end of back-to-back up and in fastballs before striking out on a slider down the middle. He flinched at both fastballs.

Now, Ward is concerned, but equipped to handle, that pitchers may take advantage of his 2023 injury by throwing him more up and in pitches, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:

“Just accepting that it’s going to happen and not letting it affect me is the biggest thing I took away from that,” Ward said.

“If I would have had that last year, it would have changed everything,” Ward said. “Having that gives me confidence that if it does happen again, it’s going to be OK.”

Washington did not share Ward’s sentiment, saying that pitchers should not be targeting Ward based on his injury and that it would send a bad message if they were to do so.

“I don’t think we have enough pitchers in the game that can control up and in,” Washington said. “They don’t have any business going up and in there. … They better not be doing that, because that will send a signal that we’re going to do it to them. Let them see how it feels. If a pitch gets away and gets up and in, fine. If you try to throw the ball in, not up and in, that’s different. You come in the chest area, that’s good. But when you go up at the head, that’s up. He’s done nothing to no one to go up and in.”

Even though Ward believes it’s possible that pitchers may do that, he is not phased by it and knows what he needs to do combat it, saying he needs to get back to what he does best by hitting the ball to the opposite field.

Aaron Hicks working toward being every day player for Angels

With Mike Trout and Ward having the only two guaranteed outfield slots for the Angels, the third starter and the bench roles are still being fought over by Jo Adell, Mickey Moniak and Aaron Hicks. Hicks, the free agent signing, wants to work his way toward being an every day player in Anaheim.

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