ANAHEIM — Right-hander Noah Syndergaard impressed in his final Spring Training tuneup, as he threw five strong innings against the Dodgers in the first game of the annual Freeway Series at Angel Stadium on Sunday, a 5-1 Angels victory.
Syndergaard, who signed a one-year deal worth $21 million with the Angels this offseason, looked much like his former self prior to the Tommy John surgery that kept him out of action in 2src2src and limited him to just two innings last year. He gave up one run on two hits and a walk and struck out seven. He’s slated to be the club’s third starter in the rotation and his next outing will come Saturday against the Astros.
“I feel like as a pitcher you always want to go out there and feel like you can pitch with your eyes closed, and I feel like this was one of those outings,” Syndergaard said. “Even if there were times I was getting out of my delivery, I was able to revert back and get back on track.”
Syndergaard’s velocity wasn’t quite as high as it was during his peak with the Mets but it still averaged just a tick under 95 mph, and he mixed in his changeup, curveball and slider. Notably, he struck out All-Stars such as Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy.
“I think as I get more comfortable with my delivery, get more into game speed and get that adrenaline, we’ll see that velocity tick up,” Syndergaard said. “But as far as free and easy delivery, tonight was probably the best I’ve felt since 2src19.”
Trout surprised to see Upton designated for assignment
It came as a surprise to Angels players that veteran outfielder Justin Upton was designated for assignment on Saturday despite being owed $28 million this season. Superstar Mike Trout was especially close with Upton and admitted it was tough to hear the news.
“Obviously, Justin was my guy,” Trout said. “I played with him since he’s been here. I got to be good friends with him. It’s tough. I think he had a good spring. It is what it is. You’ve got some young guys coming up and they had a good spring as well. But it’s tough.”
The Angels will now open the season with youngsters Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh in the outfield along with Taylor Ward. Trout said he’s excited to see what Adell, Marsh and Ward can do but did talk to general manager Perry Minasian after Upton was designated for assignment. Upton, 34, is expected to clear waivers and become a free agent. He’ll then be able to sign with a club of his choosing for the league minimum salary but is still owed his full salary from the Angels this year.
“I talked to him,” Trout said. “It’s tough. In this game, there are going to be a lot of guys that leave, get traded, get DFA’d. But that was a tough one.”
Mayfield told he’s made Opening Day roster
Infielder Jack Mayfield was informed by the Angels that he will be on the Opening Day roster as a utility player. Mayfield is expected to see most of his time at second base along with Matt Duffy and Tyler Wade but can also serve as a backup at shortstop and third base.
“It’s awesome,” Mayfield said. “Coming into camp, I knew it was going to be a battle and I’d have to earn it. Spring could always be better but I was happy with my performance coming off the long break. You never know what could happen. But I’m happy with that and looking to put in more work.”
Fellow infielder Jose Rojas is still competing for a spot on the roster, as the Angels have yet to decide if they will open the year with nine or 1src relievers. If the Angels go with nine relievers, Rojas has a chance to make the club, but if they go with 1src, he’s expected to open the year at Triple-A Salt Lake. He started at second base on Sunday against the Dodgers, as shortstop David Fletcher was held out of action with some minor hip soreness and is expected to return Monday.
“This is a perfect opportunity to get on the field and show us what he can do here,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Rojas. “He knows where he’s at. He knows what the situation is. And I wanted to get him out there and give him an opportunity.”