Column: It was Jo Adell’s day during the Angels’ win over Orioles
This was Jo Adell’s day:
Thrown into the Angels’ lineup with about 90 minutes’ notice after stomach problems knocked out left fielder Brandon Marsh, Adell slammed a 91- mph cutter from right-hander Travis Lakins Sr. over the wall in right-center for a grand slam, the centerpiece of the Angels’ six-run first inning against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
“Biggest hit of the night,” manager Joe Maddon said.
This also was Jo Adell’s day:
With the Angels in position to put the game away in the fifth inning, he came to bat with the bases loaded against reliever Keegan Akin, who had walked two of the previous three batters. Instead of showing patience against Akin and working the count Adell went after the first pitch, sharply grounding into an inning-ending double play.
Adell didn’t get another chance. In the seventh inning, with a run in and the bases loaded, Maddon sent Matt Duffy up to hit for Adell against right-hander Felix Bautista with one out. Duffy hit a harmless fly ball to right.
Jo Adell hit a grand slam in a six-run first inning, and the Angels survived a rally by the Baltimore Orioles to win 7-6 on Sunday at Angel Stadium.
“Just the pitcher and the game at that particular moment, a right-hander, and how he threw,” Maddon said of his decision. “I liked Duffy’s abilities at that point over Jo’s.”
Unable to protect that big early lead, the Angels had to claw back to earn a weirdly difficult 7-6 win at Angel Stadium and avoid being swept by the Orioles. Maddon compared the 3-hour, 42-minute, combined 14-walk game to a root canal. The Angels’ victory eased their pain but they’ve still got to figure out how to best manage Adell, their first-round draft pick out of high school in 2017.
Adell has gone from phenom to top-ranked prospect to a puzzling piece of the outfield plans of the Angels, who must weigh his potential and his power against his impatience, his strikeouts, and his struggles in the field. It’s tough to say that Adell, who’s only 23, is facing a make-or-break season but it’s also clear he’s a platoon player for the foreseeable future.
His home run on Sunday — the second grand slam of his career — doubled his season RBI total and raised his batting average to .245 and his on-base plus slugging percentage to .750. He has had at least one hit in each of the last five games he has played. He didn’t strike out in any of his three at-bats on Sunday, the first time in 14 games this season that has happened, but he had struck out a staggering 21 times in his previous 46 at-bats.
“Every season you want to perform. You want to be able to help the team win and do something in that regard,” he said. “Once I got to spring training, I started being around some of these guys, I was just like, ‘Man, I just want to win. Wherever I fit in to that is what it’s going to be.’ But I just want to be a part of a winning culture, and these guys have just been great all the way through.”
Being hit for in the seventh wasn’t ego-deflating, he insisted. “No. No. No. We have a manager, I trust his moves. He’s been doing this, been in baseball forever. There is no questioning anything that he does,” Adell said. “We’re all here to win. We’re all here ready to do what we need to do, whether it’s me hitting or Duffy or whoever else, that’s who it’s going to be. And I’m all in for that.”
Maddon said he wants to see Adell hit more to right-center, as Adell did on the grand slam. In explaining his vision Maddon borrowed a line from the late Rick Down, who was a hitting coach with the Angels and Dodgers, among other major league teams.
“Let the speed of the ball dictate where you’re going to hit it,” Maddon said. “In other words, if it’s a fastball it should be like your vision should be set on center and the gap. If you’re there, you’ll automatically pull something soft and keep it there. Let the speed of the ball dictate where you hit it.
“When he’s going at his best, I think that’s what he’s doing. He’s going to play with that slot mentally first. When he’s spinning off stuff that’s what gets him in trouble. For the most part he’s found right-center.”
Adell said he often talks hitting with Mike Trout, as good a source for hitting advice as anyone. Trout’s advice has been basic but sound. Have a plan. Have an approach and stick to it.
Noah Syndergaard had another strong start for the Angels, but key relievers and the defense faltered in a 5-4 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles.
“He’s got a lot of talent and obviously he’s a pretty strong kid. He doesn’t need to go up there and try to hit the ball 500 feet every time,” Trout said. “He just needs to go up there and try to put a good swing on the ball. He’s been doing better at that. I think once he starts figuring that out, he’s going to go off.”
Maybe then, his whiffs will decline. “If he gets out of his zone, that’s when the strikeouts happen. I think it will help if he has a controlled approach. You saw what he did today,” Trout said. “That ball was a good swing to right-center.”
The Angels want to see more of that. It’s up to him to take Trout’s advice and deliver.
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