ANAHEIM — After missing four months with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, rookie catcher Logan O’Hoppe needed a little time to get things going offensively before he turned things around with an impressive September.
O’Hoppe capped his strong month with a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning of an eventual 7-3 loss to the A’s on Saturday night at Angel Stadium. It was O’Hoppe’s 14th blast in 50 games this season and his ninth in September. He’s tied for the third-most homers by an Angels rookie in a month in club history, behind 10 by Mike Trout (July 2012) and Wally Joyner (May 1986). And he tied Jared Walsh (2020) for the club record for homers by a rookie in September.
“Every one he hits, you just realize how much we missed him all year and everything that goes along with him,” manager Phil Nevin said. “It’s been a really strong month for him. And I’m pushing him by having him catch every game this week.”
It’s an encouraging sign for O’Hoppe, who was acquired from the Phillies at last year’s Trade Deadline and is primed to be the franchise’s catcher of the future. He’s already considered a leader in the clubhouse, and he’s made it clear he wants to be part of the core that turns things around for the Angels, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2014.
“I’m happy with the way I’m feeling now, but we’re not putting wins on the board,” O’Hoppe said. “I want [to win] more than anything. It’s how I’m going to spend every second this winter. I’ll take a few weeks to get away from it, but after that, it’s going to be all focused on having a better result next year. I’m going to do everything I can because this is not fun.”
After hitting .111 with a homer and one RBI in his first nine games after his return from his shoulder injury, O’Hoppe batted a much more respectable .261/.292/.587 with nine homers, three doubles and 15 RBIs in 25 games in September. He’s been catching nearly every game down the stretch, as Nevin wants O’Hoppe to get the feel of being an everyday catcher.
“I feel like he’s the rarity where he can catch the bulk,” Nevin said. “I’m not going to put a number on the games but [J.T.] Realmuto and Yadi [Molina] come to mind. [O’Hoppe] has the body and the work ethic. He’s only had about 200 at-bats in the big leagues, but he’s been impressive.”
O’Hoppe, 23, opened the season as the club’s primary catcher, as veteran Max Stassi was placed on the 10-day injured list with a hip strain and eventually missed the entire season due to a family medical issue. But O’Hoppe tore the labrum in his left shoulder on a swing at Yankee Stadium on April 20, which required surgery, and he didn’t return until Aug. 18.
O’Hoppe, though, has proved that the surgery didn’t sap any of his power, and he has continued to improve his defense behind the plate. He helped guide lefty Kenny Rosenberg through five innings of one-hit ball against the A’s before the bullpen imploded in the eighth.
“Logan’s great,” Rosenberg said. “He’s very mature, not necessarily the way he calls a game, per se, but the way he goes about his business off the field to prepare to be able to call the game. We have conversations and they’re really advanced for how long he’s been playing at this level.”
O’Hoppe’s two-run blast came with one out in the seventh against right-hander Joe Boyle, who had held the Angels hitless for 6 1/3 innings before Brandon Drury dropped in a double after Nolan Schanuel led off the frame with a walk. Mike Moustakas nearly homered, but settled for a game-tying sacrifice fly. O’Hoppe got all of a 2-1 fastball at the top of the zone and drove it over the right-center-field fence to give the Angels the lead.
But the lead was short-lived, as rookie relievers Ben Joyce and Jose Soriano combined to allow five runs in the eighth. It was more growing pains for the Angels, but like O’Hoppe, Joyce and Soriano are expected to be a big part of the mix next year.
“These are learning moments for them,” Nevin said. “We love the arms. They have stuff as good as anybody in the league, but there are things you need to do to be consistent.”