OAKLAND — Geovany Soto launched a game-winning home run for the Angels on Tuesday night and was not in their lineup Wednesday afternoon, so the 33-year-old returned to the batting cages at the Oakland Coliseum and turned up the velocity, as he often does.
To stay alert in his role as the team's backup catcher, he stands in against the hardest pitches machines can offer. Otherwise, he said, he would not be able to handle fastballs like the 93-mph one from Sean Doolittle that he hit for the homer.
"You've still gotta see it, and you still gotta hit it," Soto said. "You feel like once you've been around, and you can understand your role, you have to work harder on that. You have to know your role. A lot of extra work, man. A lot of extra work and concentration to try to stay with that rhythm, so when you are in there, you do the best you can for the club."
Soto has started three of the Angels' nine games, a ratio that figures to remain throughout the season while Carlos Perez gets a chance to prove he can be a capable primary catcher.
Soto started 53 games for the Chicago White Sox last year, about the same pace. Soto is a career .246 hitter with a .332 on-base percentage and .434 slugging mark. Perez has hit .245/.297/.339 over 93 games in his career.
Mike Trout wore Kobe Bryant-themed batting gloves during batting practice to acknowledge the basketball star's retirement. The gloves had the numbers Kobe wore as a Laker — 8 and 24 — emblazoned on either hand. He also used purple-and-gold cleats.
Trout was not permitted under Major League Baseball rules to wear the Nike-provided gear during the game. He planned to watch Bryant's final game on the Angels' flight to Minneapolis on Wednesday night.
"It sucks to see him leave," Trout said. "But he seems to be doing what's right for him and his family."
Trout met Bryant last month in Phoenix as did several Angels teammates and Padres outfielder Matt Kemp, who also wore the Nike equipment on Wednesday.
The Angels' bullpen coach, former big league reliever Scott Radinsky, did not accompany the team on its flight. He was sent to a local hospital for examination. No other details were available. … After Thursday's off day, the Angels will start Garrett Richards on Friday, Jered Weaver on Saturday and rookie right-hander Nick Tropeano on Sunday.