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Taylor Ward reports to Angels camp with the catchers

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Ward caught 202 games in the minors, though his last game behind the plate was in 2018

Los Angeles Angels v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Angels cornerman Taylor Ward reported to spring training in Tempe along with the catchers, with the hopes of increasing his versatility.

“This guy has already shown he can play all the outfield positions, and I think he’s gotten better at first base,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said on a conference call Thursday. “From what I saw last year when we did it briefly, this guy can catch a little bit. If you give him opportunity right now, he might show you more than you think.”

The Angels had Ward work with catching coach Jose Molina last year, though he didn’t get into any major league games at the position.

“My thought was, if I’m standing on the side, and I don’t know that this catcher really hasn’t caught hardly at all,” Maddon said. “There’s nothing abnormal about his catching abilities.”

Ward hit .277/.333/.383 with six doubles and two triples in 34 games for the Angels last year. Over the last three seasons he has played mostly third base, left field and right field in the majors and minors, with a dash of first base.

But he was drafted out of Fresno State in the first round by the Angels in 2015 as a catcher, and played his first three years as a professional behind the plate, including 21 games for Double-A Mobile in 2017.

Behind the plate

The Angels have three other catchers on the 40-man roster in Max Stassi, Kurt Suzuki, and Anthony Bemboom. Stassi had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip on October 14, and at the time the team said the typical rehab time was 4-6 months. He’ll be brought along slowly in camp, including catching his first bullpen in the next few days.

“He looks good for opening day, but we’re not going to push him early,” Maddon said Thursday. “This is just part of the rehab process, getting him back to normal. All the indicators are pointing in the right direction.”

Stassi hit .278/.352/.533 with seven home runs in 31 games for the Angels in 2020, but also allowed a major league-high 32 stolen bases in 38 attempts.

Not so fast, my friend

The Angels spring training roster lists Jared Walsh in the two-way player section along with Shohei Ohtani. And although Walsh is in camp early for position players, there are no plans for him to pitch.

“You saw what he did at first base and saw what he did in the batter’s box, so that’s our emphasis right there,” Maddon said. “We don’t have plans for him to pitch right now.”

Maddon said Walsh will play first base and the outfield. Walsh hit .293/.324/.646 with nine home runs in 32 games, with all of his home runs coming after getting regular playing time in the season’s final month.