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What Anthony Rendon’s latest injury means for the Angels as he goes on 10-day IL

Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon throws to first base.
Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon throws to first during the fifth inning on Saturday.
(David Dermer / Associated Press)
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Anthony Rendon is going back on the injured list.

The Angels’ star third baseman was put on the 10-day IL for a groin strain, retroactive to May 14, before the team’s four–game series with the Orioles in Baltimore. He played in two of the Angels’ three games against the Guardians in Cleveland over the weekend, getting pulled for left groin tightness in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game.

It’s yet another season in which Rendon will miss time because of injury. Since signing with the Angels in December 2019, Rendon has had just one IL-free season and that was the 60-game season in 2020.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Rendon told reporters in Baltimore. “I’m trying to be positive throughout the whole thing. That’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years. I’ve been getting punched a lot lately. It sucks.”

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The Angels called up Livan Soto from double-A, adding to their list of available infielders, as the corresponding move. Soto made his debut in September, playing 18 games, going 22 for 55 (.400 batting average) with nine runs scored, including one home run and nine RBIs. In 30 games between double-A and triple-A this year, he batted .170 with a .560 OPS.

The good news is that this does not seem, for now, to be another significant season-derailing injury, and unlike last season, the Angels are better equipped to be without Rendon at third base for long stretches.

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The offseason pickup of Gio Urshela, a natural third baseman, gave them proven major-league depth at that corner, which has already been shown. The Angels built up a significant infield depth over the winter, general manager Perry Minasian trying to prepare for exactly this: injuries sidelining several position players, like it did last season.

Rendon had missed 11 games between serving an early season suspension and for load management. Urshela filled in for Rendon, starting 10 games at third. Luis Rengifo, who has slotted in at third a few times in his career, though a bit more effectively in 2022, also had one rep at third this season with Rendon out.

The Angels went 6-5 in those first 11 games Rendon missed this season and are 21-20 overall. Last season, when Rendon missed most of the year after undergoing surgery on his right wrist for an ECU tendon subluxation, the Angels went 47-68 without Rendon in the lineup on their way to a 73-89 record.

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The unsettling news in the short term for the Angels is the steady bat they stand to miss out on at a time the Angels are still trying to put the pieces of their puzzle together with so many players moving in and out because of injury or lack of production. On Sunday, for example, the Angels designated veteran reliever Ryan Tepera — who is still owed $7 million this year — for assignment after his last poor outing. They also recalled reliever Zack Weiss and outfielder Mickey Moniak over the weekend. Monday, they activated catcher Chad Wallach from the IL.

There’s a reason why, on multiple occasions, Angels manager Phil Nevin has touted Rendon’s keen eye at the plate. “Situationally, I don’t think there’s a better hitter in the game than Anthony Rendon,” Nevin said during the last homestand.

Nevin has had Rendon batting cleanup with intention. In 26 games in which he’s had a plate appearance with runners in scoring position, he’s batting .357 with a 1.036 OPS (44 plate appearances, 10 hits, two doubles, one home run, 19 RBI, eight walks).

Overall, Rendon was making progress at the plate this season after missing a substantial amount of the previous two years with significant injuries. In 30 games in 2023, Rendon is batting .301 with a .784 on-base-plus-slugging rate to go with 19 runs scored, including one home run, and 20 RBIs on 31 hits, including four doubles, and 19 walks. (He hit a combined .234 in his previous two injury-plagued seasons.)

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By comparison, Urshela, who has started 35 of 37 games, playing every infield position this season, is batting .283 with a .629 OPS, 16 runs scored, including one home run, and has contributed 14 RBIs, on 39 hits, including three doubles, and four walks. And Rengifo, who has started 27 of 33 games, playing in the infield and outfield, is batting .213 with a .622 OPS, 14 runs scored, including two home runs, and has contributed 15 RBI on 20 hits, including two doubles, and 14 walks.

Adequate numbers and Urshela and Rengifo are certainly capable of holding their own and coming through in clutch situations. But there’s a reason the Angels signed Rendon to a $245-million contract.

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In a season viewed by many as a must-win for the Angels, the AL West division still feels very much up for grabs. Yes, there are the lopsided losses and other issues around the team, but Rendon also needs to be in this lineup.

It’s still early, but it won’t be forever.

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