For the first time in more than eight months, the Angels fielded a lineup featuring Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton smack in the middle of the order.
Upton was reinstated from the 60-day injured list Monday in time to play left field and bat fourth for the opener of the Angels’ four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Outfielder Cesar Puello, who had a .390 batting average and 1.183 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 50 plate appearances since late May, was designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
The Angels have waited on Upton since late March, when he stubbed his foot against the outfield wall at Angel Stadium during an exhibition game against the Dodgers and sustained a left big toe sprain that put him in a boot for four weeks.
The combination of Upton’s injury and the poor performances from free-agent pitching acquisitions Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill and Cody Allen might have caused the Angels to spiral into the cellar of both the American League West and the wild-card standings. But they’ve managed to stay afloat in the latter, entering Monday just 3 1/2 games behind the second-place Texas Rangers.
Upton had seven hits, including two home runs, over six games during a rehab assignment with Class A Inland Empire last week. He said that despite missing so much action — Upton spent most of spring training nursing right knee tendinitis — his timing at the plate felt “great.”
He proved his point within seconds of stepping into a major league batter’s box for the first time this season. He swung at the first pitch he saw from the Blue Jays’ Edwin Jackson and hit it 424 feet to straightaway center field for a solo home run in the second inning. About 15 minutes later, Upton came back to bat in the same inning and dumped a single into left field.
La Stella, Trout lead All-Star ballot again
With days remaining in the first phase of All-Star game voting, it seems infielder Tommy La Stella and outfielder Trout are shoo-ins for the next round of voting.
Trout, a seven-time all-star, is the leading vote-getter in the American League with more than 1.9 million votes. La Stella has a nearly 100,000-vote lead over Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who has spent the majority of the season fighting lower-body injuries but is poised to rejoin the team this week.
La Stella has never been selected for the All-Star game. Neither has Ohtani, who is fourth among designated hitters.
The first phase of fan voting ends Friday. The top three vote-getters at each position in both leagues will move on to the next phase. Fans will elect starters from the winnowed pool during a 28-hour period that begins at 9 a.m. Pacific time June 26. Pitchers and reserves for both squads will be determined through a combination of player ballots and selections made by the MLB commissioner’s office.