With the Seattle Mariners throwing left-hander Nick Margevicius, Justin Upton has a decent chance of being in the starting lineup in left field for the Los Angeles Angels on Friday when the two teams begin a four-game series in Anaheim, Calif.
Mike Trout, obviously, is anchored in center field. But the corner outfield spots have been divided among Upton, Brian Goodwin and rookie Jo Adell. Goodwin, the only left-handed hitter among the three, is also the only one among the three that is hitting better than .200 (.253/.343/.484 with four homers and 17 RBIs).
Adell, who was called up Aug. 4 and has started 16 of the Angels’ 32 games, is being given some leeway because of his rookie status. He’s hitting .186/.250/.220 with no homers and one RBI. But Upton, who is making $21 million this year, the third in a five-year, $106 million deal, has been a big disappointment.
Upton was expected to be a major cog in the heart of the lineup that would include Trout, Anthony Rendon and Albert Pujols. But Upton, who has started 20 games, has just seven hits all season (7-for-71) and is hitting .099/.167/.225. Three of his seven hits are home runs, including one earlier this week on Monday against the Houston Astros.
Not knowing if he’s going to be in the lineup from day-to-day can be a problem for some players, but Upton isn’t about to rock the boat.
“The worst thing I could possibly do is to come in here and hinder the growth of the team and hinder the atmosphere,” Upton said. “I’m gonna try to continue to come in here and be there for my teammates.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon has worked one-on-one with Upton, but understands Upton ultimately has to figure things out himself.
“He’s hit a certain way his whole career and he’s been very successful, so you’re not trying to change anything,” Maddon said. “Maybe just point out different things, remind him of different things or just listen to him, and a lot of times these guys will answer their own questions. Just trying to support him and remind him what got him to this particular point.”
Margevicius (1-1, 4.12 ERA) began the season pitching out of the bullpen but joined the rotation in place of the injured Kendall Graveman Aug. 8 and has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his last two starts. He got his first victory in his most recent start, against the Texas Rangers on Friday.
“He has really shown well for himself,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “This is a guy who fits right in the same bucket with (Justus) Sheffield and (Justin) Dunn and a number of young pitchers we have. He’s going to pitch in this league for a long time. He really is. He throws strikes, does not beat himself and always has a good plan when he’s out there.”
Margevicius pitched against the Angels earlier this season, giving up one run and two hits in two relief innings.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney (1-2, 5.52), who will start Friday for the Angels, earned his only victory of the season on Aug. 4 against the Mariners, giving up one run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Since then, Heaney has struggled, allowing 14 runs on 19 hits in 14 innings in three starts, going 0-2 with one no-decision.
The Angels are coming off two consecutive off days Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday was a regularly scheduled off day, and Wednesday’s game with the Astros was postponed because of concerns about Hurricane Laura. The Mariners, meanwhile, are coming off a doubleheader split with the San Diego Padres on Thursday, playing their regularly scheduled game as well as the game scheduled for Wednesday that was called off by the players in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Sports are a privilege, and we get the opportunity to play an awesome game,” Servais said. “We get paid for it, and these guys are the best in the world and they get to compete on this level every day. But it’s a privilege of a functioning society, and our players made a decision to take a step backward and back off the gas here, to create some awareness about something that we need to change.”
–Field Level Media