Amid all the turmoil that has unfolded with the Angels’ season in the last month, alone, Luis Rengifo has quietly emerged as one of the best hitters on the team.
In Wednesday’s 10-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the Angels utility player not only extended his hit streak to 14 games, he also hit a two-run home run into the right center field seats. Patrick Sandoval got the loss on Wednesday, going five innings, giving up seven runs, four earned, on seven hits, while walking four and striking out three.
Rengifo’s home run came in the bottom of the third inning off of Orioles’ starter Kyle Gibson’s 86 mph changeup, energizing the Angel Stadium crowd. He went two for four on the night.
It’s important to remember that, even though Rengifo’s season has had its fair share of bad moments, his improvements at the plate are no accident and represent tangible, continued growth in his career.
“To his credit,” manager Phil Nevin said recently of Rengifo, “he started the season slow, wasn’t playing every day, but was certainly playing enough, he just had some ups and downs, but stuck with it, kept working.”
On Tuesday, Rengifo earned his first American League player of the week honors by Major League Baseball, for his accomplishments the week prior, an award for which earned him an ovation from the crowd that evening. He came into Wednesday’s game with a 1.244 on-base-plus-slugging rate over the last 13 games. This season he is batting .264 with a .783 OPS.
His progress, Nevin said, has much to do with the work he has continued to do with hitting coach Marcus Thames in the batting cages, which has improved his selection of pitches to swing at.
Thames’ own coaching philosophy, he said in an interview with The Times in June, revolves around getting to know players, then reminding them of who they are.
“These guys are really talented,” Thames said. “Just getting them to believe in their work, getting them to believe in the routine in the cage. … And then once the game comes, they can just go play.
“And that’s kind of what I wanted to try to get that chemistry going with the guys, letting them trust themselves,” Thames continued. “Myself and [assistant hitting coach Phil Plantier], just making sure we’re an extra set of eyes for them. Trying to keep it simple because hitting is so hard.”
As for Rengifo, his improved bat and his various usefulness for being able to be placed about anywhere around the field as the Angels work through their final 22 games of the season without key starters — the result of injuries and waivers — will only bode better for himself; something for fans to be interested in in 2024.
“I’m not gonna say [his bat] is what he’s gonna be like his entire career, but he’s certainly in a good place now,” Nevin said. “I just think his value is being able to play all over and having that, it makes it easier to go out and get somebody somewhere else. Doesn’t necessarily have to be one certain position because you know Luis can, I don’t want to say “fill in” because, for me, he’s an everyday player. He’s proven that.”