Mike Trout was already feeling sluggish after a long night of weather-related travel delays in Texas limited him to five or six hours of choppy sleep before an April 18 home game against Seattle.
The center fielder’s shoulders seemed to sag even more when he glanced at the wall-sized schedule in the clubhouse and realized the Angels would have to repeat the grueling travel schedule a week later.
After closing a series against the Yankees with a 6 p.m. game Thursday, the Angels were to bus to LAX for a red-eye flight to Kansas City that would arrive around sunrise. The Angels open a three-game series against the Royals on Friday night.
“I just think having a night game on a getaway day and playing the next day … it’s just tough,” Trout said. “It’s not good. It’s not healthy. If you look at it, man, we’ll be lucky to land in Kansas City at 5:30-6 a.m. It’s tough on your body.”
So why didn’t the Angels play a day game or mid-afternoon game Thursday? It’s a matter of economics, the team wanting to maximize gate revenue for the Yankees’ only trip to Anaheim this season.
The Angels averaged 36,548 in attendance for their first 11 night games. A mid-week day game while school is in session, even against a premier draw such as the Yankees, would likely attract a crowd in the 25,000 range.
“It’s a pretty big difference,” Angels president John Carpino said. “We’re trying to balance player health and well-being with fans being able to see high-profile teams.”
A neck strain forced Zack Cozart, hurt in a Monday night collision with Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu, to the 10-day injured list and led to Thursday’s promotion of top infield prospect Luis Rengifo from triple-A.
The 22-year-old switch-hitter, who jumped from Class-A Inland Empire to double-A Mobile to Salt Lake last season, made his big-league debut Thursday night, starting at second base and batting ninth.
“He brings a lot to the table,” manager Brad Ausmus said of the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Rengifo. “He’s got speed, versatility, he can play all three infield positions, and he has some power. He’s a strong guy even though he’s not that big. With that combination of power and speed, he can be a dynamic player.”
Rengifo, from Venezuela, was acquired from Tampa Bay for slugger C.J. Cron in March 2018. He showed superb plate discipline last season, batting a combined .299 with 30 doubles, 13 triples, seven homers, 64 RBIs and 41 stolen bases, and he had as many walks (75) as strikeouts (75).
“I’ve always believed that if you work hard and give your best each day, you can force people to make these decisions,” Rengifo said through an interpreter. “I started playing baseball when I was three, and I can tell you I’ve dedicated just about all of my life to this game. For me, baseball is a passion, it’s a love.
“This was always the dream. From the moment I signed when I was 16 years old, my goal was to get to the big leagues. Thank God today that opportunity arrived.”
Shohei Ohtani, in the final stage of his return as a hitter from elbow surgery, faced live pitching for the second time this week Thursday. In five plate appearances he walked, struck out, hit a line drive to left-center field, a fly ball to left-center and a grounder to second.
Ausmus said when the left-handed slugger returns in early May, he will serve as the regular designated hitter, with occasional days off against left-handers and bat somewhere “in the thick of the lineup,” likely behind Trout.