The Angels shipped former catcher Martin Maldonado to the Houston Astros before last year’s trade deadline for a pitcher in his fourth year of professional baseball who still hadn’t faced double-A competition.
Things changed fast.
Left-hander Patrick Sandoval, 22, made his first triple-A start Saturday with the Salt Lake Bees.
Sandoval, a 22-year-old drafted from Mission Viejo High in 2015, has continued to build on a breakout 2018 season. He had a 3.60 ERA in five games (four starts) at double-A Mobile while holding batters to a .187 average and striking out 32 over 20 innings.
While throwing a career-high 122 1/3 innings last year, Sandoval enjoyed similar success. He allowed a .196 batting average, collected 145 strikeouts and yielded only 29 walks. He pitched so well upon joining the Angels’ Class-A affiliate in Inland Empire — no runs allowed in 14 2/3 innings — that he was promoted within three weeks to Mobile, Ala. He surrendered only three earned runs in the final 19 2/3 innings of his campaign.
General manager Billy Eppler said upon making the trade that Sandoval had the potential to rise quickly. Now Sandoval, who throws a low-90s fastball, two breaking balls and a plus-graded changeup, is one step away from the major leagues.
“Patrick Sandoval continued to check off the boxes of his development plan in Mobile which gave us the confidence to move to him to Salt Lake and continue to challenge him,” Eppler said.
Ward in Mexico
It took getting his passport shipped from his parents’ home in Florida and a flight delay, but infielder Taylor Ward finally joined the Angels at their hotel Friday night.
“The travel here was interesting,” Ward said Saturday afternoon. “But I’m here now, so it’s all good.”
Ward, who entered Saturday’s game against the Astros as a defensive replacement, is on the roster as a contingency plan. MLB allows teams to carry an extra position player during international games because of how complicated it would be to get a replacement into a foreign country in limited time.
Ward was a perfect candidate for this opportunity. Ever since his brief stint with the Angels in mid-April, during which he made two errors at third base, Ward has expanded his skill-set by playing two new positions at triple A. He played two games in left field and 42 innings over five games at first base.
Ward is still mastering third base, the position to which the Angels moved the former catcher last year. But he said he feels comfortable at first and in the outfield, where he’s already been able to use his speed to make a sliding play to rob a hit.
“I like” moving around the field, Ward said. “I like playing outfield a little. It’s giving me the opportunity to throw people out. I like that. Showing off the speed a little bit.”
Left-hander Andrew Heaney, on the injured list recovering from elbow inflammation all season, will pitch against hitters Sunday at Angel Stadium. He hasn’t faced batters since spring training. … Infielder Zack Cozart and two-way player Shohei Ohtani will hit in a simulated game Sunday. Cozart, who hurt his neck diving headfirst into the knee of New York Yankees infielder D.J. LaMahieu nearly two weeks ago, could join the Angels on the road some time in the next 10 days. So could Ohtani, who manager Brad Ausmus said was getting “closer.”