Jared Walsh gets back to big leagues after dealing with neurological issues

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Jared Walsh was activated from the IL on Saturday, making his first major league start of the 2023 season against the Minnesota Twins, and Brett Phillips was designated for assignment.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was “Country Weekend” at the Big A, but more noteworthy than the cowboy hats and music, Saturday night marked a highly-anticipated moment for Jared Walsh, who celebrated his return to the Angels after a long and strenuous road to recovery.

The first baseman took the field with the team for the first time this season after missing 46 games due to neurological-related issues.

Before starting against the Minnesota Twins in the Angels’ second game of the home series, Walsh said, “It’s been great. I just feel so much better than I did last year. A lot more with it, a lot more refreshed, have a little bit more energy and stuff like that. So I’m hoping it pays off in the end.”

During spring training this year, Walsh was placed on the IL ahead of Opening Day due to neurological issues that caused him to experience insomnia and headaches. Though he started to experience symptoms during the 2022 season, he was able to play through them before ultimately deciding to seek treatment at the end of March. 

He said that some of the symptoms he dealt with throughout the past year included lack of spatial awareness, varying heart rates and visual impairment.

“I think there was just kind of a general fogginess. Trouble fixating my gaze with my eyes, stuff like that, and then just not really having a great idea of where my body was in space,” he explained.

Although the symptoms are not completely gone, he’s been able to manage them for about three weeks now. He’s consulted with such specialists as neurologists, vestibular therapists and neuro ophthalmologists and said they’re confident he’s on track to make a full recovery. 

“They [specialists] keep saying, ‘You’re gonna be 100% good’ and all that, so I’m gonna stay in touch with them but hopefully sooner rather than later. They’re very optimistic though,” said Walsh. “I think it’s definitely a process and hopefully, I keep on improving, but a lot better than I felt last year, which is all I can ask for. So just keep getting better every day. I know it’s a cliché, but I really believe it in my circumstance.”

He joined the Triple-A team in Salt Lake on May 12 for his rehab assignment and after seven games, the former All-Star showed signs of a successful comeback. He hit .440, going 11-for-25 with nine runs scored, one double, one home run and six RBIs. Defensively, he said he still feels a “little rusty,” but he’s confident everything will fall into place once he gets moving on the field. 

“It’s kind of like Spring Training 2.0. So, you know, I could potentially be working through some rust still while I’m here and that’s just baseball. You know, we have the highs and lows. Some days, you’re on time. Some days, you’re not,” said Walsh. “I think that the more reps I get, the more confidence I’m gonna build, hit some barrels, make some plays and things will get rolling.”

Before he left to seek treatment, Walsh was set to be the team’s everyday first baseman, and now that he’s back, manager Phil Nevin said he’s ready to put him right back in that spot. Walsh has been cleared to play without restrictions, although Nevin will still be giving him days off depending on the matchups for each game.

Walsh wrapped up his first major league start of the season with an RBI groundout to score Hunter Renfroe, but despite the help of Shohei Ohtani’s 11th home run, the Angels dropped the second game of the series against the Minnesota Twins, 6-2.

Walsh said after the game, “Yeah, it was good. Really exciting. It felt a little foreign at first but as the game went on, I got a lot more comfortable.”