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Angels start workouts without Ohtani and with new manager Washington

Ron Washington Los Angeles Angels Ron Washington - The Canadian Press

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Los Angels Angels started spring training without Shohei Ohtani for the first time since 2017 and with a new manager in Ron Washington.

Ohtani, the unprecedented two-way star, left for a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Washington took over after Phil Nevin was fired and Washington hopes to get the Angels back into the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“I’m excited. I wouldn’t want to be anyplace else on the face of this earth because we have an opportunity to do something very special here,” Washington said Wednesday as the Angels pitchers and catchers began workouts. "I’m just trying to get that mindset going in that direction.”

Washington, at 71 the oldest current big league manager, is running a team for the first time since leading the Texas Rangers from 2007-14. A key for the Angels will be the health of Mike Trout, the three-time AL MVP who was limited to 82 games last year. Trout played just one game since fracturing the hamate bone in his left hand on July 3 and the 32-year-old finished with a .263 average, 18 homers and 44 RBIs.

Washington addressed players on the first day.

"The main message I sent to them was work ethic, care about each other and develop a culture and structure. You must be a team to be successful,” Washington said he told players. “You can’t have people going in different directions. That’s the main thing."

“I want Mike Trout to be Mike Trout. I want him to lead. I want the rest of the guys to grow,” Washington added,

Even if Ohtani had stayed, the Angels wouldn’t have had him in the rotation this season — Ohtani won't pitch until 2025 following elbow surgery.

Left-handers Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and Tyler Anderson return to the rotation along with right-hander Griffin Canning.

Closer Carlos Estévez remains after saving 31 games in 35 chances for a team that went 73-89 for the second straight year.

“I love the enthusiasm around this group,” Estévez said. “I like the vibe, the energy.”

Having Washington around helps.

“We can get a lot out of our younger players," Estévez said. "It’s cool to see a legend taking care if this group. You can see with the knowledge he has, and the way he likes the game to be played, it’s going to help with their confidence.”

Nolan Schanuel debuted on Aug. 18 and hit .275 with one homer, six RBIs and a .402 on-base percentage. He was the first player to reach the major leagues from last year's draft, the 11th player picked overall, and hit leadoff in all 28 starts.

“Right now, he is our first baseman,” Washington said. “We have a lot of hope for him, I like his work ethic.”

Los Angeles is counting on youngsters like Schanuel, who turned 22 on Wednesday, and 23-year-old shortstop Zach Neto, the Angels’ first-round pick in 2022.

The Angels didn’t make any large offseason acquisitions, instead bringing in veterans such as Aaron Hicks, Miguel Sanó and Hunter Dozier.

Dozier, 32, is playing outside the Kansas City Royals’ organization for the first time. He expects to continue in a utility role with time at infield and outfield corners along with designated hitter.

“It’s good just to kind of get a new start,” Dozier said. “I’m ready for anything.”

One holdover from his Kansas City days is his uniform number — 17 — which just happens to be the number left behind by Ohtani. No other significance to it, he said.

“I was 17 with the Royals for six years,” Dozier said.