Dexter Fowler’s out for season with torn ACL. Who will replace the Angels outfielder?
Fowler, 35, was injured Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays, running into second base awkwardly and colliding with Blue Jays infielder Marcus Semien as he beat a potential force out — a key early play in the Angels’ 7-1 win.
Fowler was carted off the field, but initially said he was optimistic he’d miss only a few games. On Saturday, the Angels placed him on the 10-day injured list with a left knee sprain.
An MRI later Saturday, however, revealed the full extent of Fowler’s injury, which he said included a torn medial meniscus, and a strained medial collateral ligament. His surgery has not yet been scheduled. The team said recovery time is expected to be six to nine months.
“We win the game because of a great baseball play, but we lose him for the season,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. “There’s a lot of conflicting thoughts right there. He knows how I feel. I know how he feels. We all do. We’re going to miss him.”
The Angels traded for Fowler in February to be their primary right fielder. In his absence, the club’s depth will be tested for the first time in the young season.
For the short term, Maddon said the Angels will use a combination of Juan Lagares, José Rojas and perhaps Jared Walsh in right field.
The Angels waited out a rain delay that pushed back the first pitch by more than 2½ hours and then were crushed 15-1 by the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Lagares, a right-handed hitter, made the opening day roster as the fourth outfielder after a strong spring training. Rojas, a 28-year-old rookie who bats left-handed, is primarily an infielder but has some minor-league experience in the outfield. Walsh is the team’s primary first baseman but has played right field, flexibility that could allow the Angels to give more playing time to Albert Pujols at first.
Long term, however, the team likely will need to recall an outfielder from its alternate training site, where utility man Taylor Ward, veteran Scott Schebler and top prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh have begun the season. Another veteran outfielder, Jon Jay, is on the Angels’ traveling taxi squad.
“There’s other options that are available to us,” Maddon said. “Just for right now, we’ve chosen to go this route, and then we’ll fill it in.”
During the spring, Ward was one of the Angels’ most consistent hitters. A 27-year-old with 94 career MLB games, he is capable of playing either corner infield or corner outfield position and also worked as a catcher during camp.
Schebler is a former 30-home-run hitter with the Cincinnati Reds who displayed resurgent power in the spring. Jay is an 11-year veteran who struggled during the Cactus League but, according to Maddon, has “been looking really good” during practice on the taxi squad.
Then there are Adell and Marsh, the club’s top two position-player prospects who figure to be key in the future. Marsh battled a shoulder injury throughout the spring before recovering at the end of camp. Adell, who struggled in his debut last year, finished the spring “making great strides at the plate,” Maddon said, after a slow start in Cactus League play.
Asked Sunday if he thought either was ready to be called up, Maddon wasn’t sure, noting that he hasn’t been getting detailed reports of their performances like he would from minor-league games in a normal year.
“I don’t get to watch the guys,” Maddon said. “I really believe in listening to the people that are there. It’s hard for me to imagine that they’ve tightened up their game to the point that you’d want to bring them yet … I’d rather wait and see what everybody else [who is watching them] is saying.”
Shohei Ohtani homered and had four RBIs, Andrew Heaney pitched six scoreless innings, and the Angels beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-1 on Friday night.
The Angels were hoping that Fowler, a 14-year veteran who will be a free agent after the season, could serve as a potential mentor to younger players such as Adell and Marsh, in addition to providing veteran leadership.
“He really makes a difference,” Maddon said. “You talk about it all the time with clubhouse guys. This guy really is one. He works the room every day and I watch it and it’s fantastic.”
But now, Fowler will have to focus on his rehab process, saying Sunday he doesn’t want the injury to mark the end of his career.
“I’m telling everybody, comeback season has commenced,” said Fowler, who was upbeat despite the diagnosis. “These are the cards I’ve been dealt … But I want to continue to play. I think I still got a lot left in the tank.”
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