Justin Upton springs into Angels’ lineup after bad bed experience

Angels outfielder Justin Upton slides into home plate to score on a hit by Kurt Suzuki.
Angels outfielder Justin Upton slides into home plate to score on a hit by Kurt Suzuki this season.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

The Angels’ injury history apparently avoided another potentially odd chapter when Justin Upton wasn’t sidelined long term by a mattress.

The outfielder returned to the lineup Friday against Minnesota after missing two games because of a back problem that he attributed to sleeping poorly.

“We travel a lot,” Upton said. “Sometimes, you sleep bad just like somebody does when they wake up to go to work in the morning. Sometimes, you sleep bad and your body doesn’t respond well to the bed and you end up with some back tightness.”


Upton said he felt the back issue Monday night during the Angels’ game in Kansas City. The team opened its first trip of the season with three games against Toronto in Dunedin, Fla., before traveling to face the Royals.

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April 16, 2021

Calling the ailment “a small hiccup,” Upton said he didn’t believe his back will be a concern and deemed himself fit to return after a batting-cage session Friday afternoon.

“I got through it in two days,” Upton said. “So I don’t think it’s going to be a chronic thing.”

After a productive spring, Upton entered Friday with just seven hits in 36 at-bats (.194 average) to start the season. He had 12 strikeouts in 42 plate appearances and one home run.

Upton explained that his timing has been off, something he continued to work on Friday before the game.


“Guys like J-Up, they’ll go through those moments where they’re not missing anything,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Other times, they will be just fouling it off just a tick. I thought he looked good” before suffering the back problem. “I mean, the numbers weren’t what you’re looking for. But, physically, I thought he looked pretty normal. When I see that, I know the good stuff’s right around the corner.”

Ohtani to throw in bullpen

Shohei Ohtani is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday as he continues his return from a blister issue. Maddon said the results of that workout will determine if he can pitch in a game as early as next week.

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April 16, 2021

While he has reminded in the lineup as a designated hitter, Ohtani has been limited to one start on the mound, pitching 4-2/3 innings on April 4 in a 7-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

He developed a blister during his final spring training start last month at Dodger Stadium. Ohtani continued to deal with the problem during his start against the White Sox.

Rengifo called up

The Angels recalled infield Luis Rengifo and selected the contract of outfielder Scott Schebler before the game. They also designated outfielder Jon Jay for assignment.

Rengifo started the opener against Minnesota, batting ninth and playing third base. Maddon said his ability to play multiple infield positions helped lead to Rengifo’s most recent promotion.

Maddon said Taylor Ward was not an option to be brought up from the Angels’ alternate site because he hasn’t played enough lately. Asked specifically if Ward is injured, Maddon said no.

“Just different things that are going on in the world today,” Maddon said.

Teams are not required to provide information on players missing time because of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.