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BOSTON – Before the Angels fell, 4–0, to the Red Sox on Tuesday, outfielder Jo Adell disembarked the team plane at Logan Airport. A few staffers unpacked his uniform in the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park. Adell addressed the media in front of his locker. He took batting practice on the field, launching half a dozen balls into the stands. He signed autographs for a few kids who called his name.
He appeared in every way to be a major leaguer. The only indication that Adell is, for now, a minor leaguer, came just before the game started, when he changed into his street clothes and left the ballpark. He will fly commercial Wednesday to join the Triple A Salt Lake Bees.
“He’s got a good attitude about it,” said the center fielder Mike Trout. “It’s tough, but he knows what he needs to do to get back up here.”
The 23-year-old Adell has been among the Angels’ top prospects since the team took him with the 10th pick of the 2017 draft. Within two years, he was one of the game’s consensus future stars. But since his debut during the ’20 COVID-shortened season, he has struggled on both sides of the ball. This year, he has hit .231 with 24 strikeouts and one walk in 66 plate appearances, and Statcast rates his defense as tied for second-worst among outfielders by outs above average (-4).
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But Adell did not so much play himself off the roster as two of his teammates played themselves onto it. Trout might be the best player the game has ever seen. Adell, Brandon Marsh and Taylor Ward opened the season expecting to rotate through the corner spots. Then Marsh hit .267 in a brutal offensive environment with solid defense, and Ward lit the world on fire: The 28-year-old is a few at-bats short of qualifying for the league leaderboards, but among those with at least 70 plate appearances, he ranks first in batting average (.390), on-base percentage (.493), slugging percentage (.746) and OPS (1.239).
In a different year, perhaps Los Angeles might have let Adell learn on the job at the expense of two players with better current statistics but lower ceilings. But at 15-10, the Angels lead the American League West — the first time they’ve done so at the dawn of May in Trout’s career. Their first month has increased their playoff odds by 21 percentage points, to 66%. Trout is 30 years old. Two-way star Shohei Ohtani can be a free agent after next season. The Halos’ window is open, and they are looking through it.
So on Tuesday afternoon, Adell was summoned to manager Joe Maddon’s office. Waiting inside were Maddon, general manager Perry Minasian and assistant hitting coach John Mallee. The front office had fled discussing the possibility on Sunday night, Minasian said later, and made the official decision only Monday morning.
“The way the other three played warranted them playing every single day,” Minasian said. “So I think from a team aspect, it was the right thing to do. Ward’s playing like he’s playing. Marsh’s playing like he’s playing. Obviously Mike’s gonna play. Those guys’ names are gonna be in the lineup for the most part. Being a young player and not getting consistent playing time is really, really tough. ”
Adell will get consistent playing time at Triple A. Even on one of the harder days of his career, Adell never seemed flustered. He did not see the demotion coming, but he understood it.
“I’m not thrilled about it,” he said. “I mean, I’m not gonna throw a parade about getting sent down, but I’m gonna try my best to get back. … I’m not going to hang my head low. I’ve got enough confidence in my game and what I’m able to know at some point, my time is gonna come where I’m going to be able to be out here every day and help these guys. And so hopefully I can get back and get myself where the standards are for this club and these guys and be able to come back and help. ”
In the coming days, his coaches will work with him on the specifics of his offensive approach and the intricacies of defense. But on Tuesday, Trout had another message. As soon as he heard Adell was being sent down, the star found the kid. “Hey,” Trout said. “See you soon.”
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