Brad Ausmus’ pregame media session Saturday afternoon quickly turned into a glorified injury update. On an Angels team that seems to get more banged up by the day, there was plenty for the first-year manager to cover.
Asked whether Mike Trout, who hasn’t played since Sept. 7 because of nerve irritation in his right foot that required cryoablation, would return to the lineup Sunday, Ausmus answered: “Hopefully he will be. I talked to him earlier. He’s optimistic about tomorrow. Probably will be a DH.”
He fielded a question about Shohei Ohtani’s condition after the pitcher and designated hitter underwent season-ending left knee surgery Friday, but he couldn’t provide specifics.
“I haven’t seen Shohei,” Ausmus said. “I haven’t talked to him.”
When asked about whether there was any new update on Tommy La Stella, the All-Star infielder who was hoping to return this month from a right tibia fracture suffered July 2, Ausmus simply shook his head.
Two weeks from the end of the season, the Angels’ ever-growing injury list is taking its toll on the club. As they spiral toward a fourth straight losing record, they’re taking the form of a triage unit in the campaign’s final days.
Without Trout, Ohtani, La Stella or outfielder Justin Upton — who is also being shut down for the season with patellar tendinitis in his right knee, the team announced Friday — the Angels lost their sixth straight game Saturday night, falling at home to the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1.
Their patchwork lineup featured four rookies, only two qualified hitters batting better than .260 and a starting pitcher in Jaime Barria who entered the game with an earned-run average above six. It was the latest reminder of just how many key absences the Angels have accumulated.
After five scoreless innings from Barria, the Angels came undone in the top of the sixth. With one out, Barria (4-9) was pulled after surrendering a single and a walk. Two batters later, reliever Miguel Del Pozo walked the bases loaded. Right-hander Taylor Cole tried to put out the fire, but Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud smoked a double over left fielder Michael Hermosillo’s head to clear the bases for a 3-0 lead.
“Not a lot of room for error with the bases loaded in a 3-2 count,” Ausmus said. “D’Arnaud made us pay for it.”
That was all the offense the Rays would need, as they used six different pitchers to limit the Angels to one run on six hits.
Even before Saturday’s loss, Ausmus tried to find positives in his team’s injury plight. Despite the club being officially eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday, he hasn’t seen any effort issues. The organization also has been able to give some of its younger players major league action.
“This is the level you want to evaluate them at,” Ausmus said, adding: “There’s no downside for them.”
The gaping holes they are being asked to fill, however, have become almost impossible to overlook.
Both Upton, who won’t require surgery but finished his injury-plagued season with a career-low .215 batting average, and Ohtani have already been shelved. La Stella might soon join them, Aumus said, if his recovery remains slow. Trout acknowledged there have been discussions about possibly shutting down his season as well.
But as long as his nagging foot pain remains manageable, Trout expects to return Sunday and finish the year, even if he has to play mostly in a designated hitter role. As the American League leader in home runs (45), on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.083) and wins above replacement (8.6, according to Fangraphs), the center fielder is trying to lock up a third career MVP award — and give the Angels at least one reinforcement for their final stretch of games.
“I want to be out there,” he told reporters Saturday. “Obviously, if we were in the playoff race it would be a different story. But I’m trying to do as much as I can to get myself ready to play.”