How Kolton Ingram has resurrected his MLB dreams with the Angels

Kolton Ingram threw his first pitch, smiled, waved to his catcher, then moved back into position to throw his next pitch. Throws from him flew, an audible whistle piercing through space.

Friday marked the 26-year-old left-hander’s first bullpen session in his first major league spring training. Focused, with just the right amount of lightness.

“It’s definitely different than minor league camp,” Ingram said Thursday of what it’s been like to be there for the first time so far.

He also wants to use the time to learn from some of the veteran relievers, like Aaron Loup, whose locker is right across from his in the clubhouse. Loup’s top piece of advice to Ingram: “Just be yourself and try to soak up as much knowledge from all the guys here.”

Ingram was one of two players whose contracts the Angels selected before the November deadline, protected from the Rule 5 Draft. But in 2020, he completely lost his job as a minor leaguer in the Detroit Tigers organization. , a victim of COVID-ravaged minor leaguers whose season was canceled and more than 1,000 players released.

“It was really the first time that I felt like I had failed,” Ingram recalled of being released by the Tigers.

“There’s no way baseball can end,” Wes Taylor, Ingram’s stepfather, said of the reaction he and Kellie, Ingram’s mother, had after he told them he had been cut.

“I was in a bad mood for a few hours, it was like a shock,” Ingram said. “Then the competitiveness in me just snapped and I was back in action.”

During the canceled season, two of his former Tigers teammates stayed with him at his family’s home in Georgia. Over the next four months, he went to work, specifically increasing his speed.

“I saw the determination every day. He didn’t give up,” Kellie said.

Angels pitcher Kolton Ingram stretches during a practice session Friday in Tempe, Arizona.

(Morry Gash/Associated Press)

The next spring, the Angels signed him as a free agent, where he quickly transitioned to double-A.

Kellie and Wes recalled that the promotions felt fast. They drove Kolton’s car to San Bernardino from Atlanta for him a few weeks into the season, watched him pitch the day they arrived, stayed a few days, then flew back to Atlanta. When they landed, Ingram was calling to let them know that he was headed to High-A Tri-City.

Ingram was at double-A as of July 2021. In 2022, he pitched 60.2 innings in 50 games with Rocket City, giving up 18 earned runs, including six home runs, walking 17 and striking out 73.

His progress over the past two years in the Angels’ system has focused on pitch sequencing: when to use certain pitches to take advantage of hitters’ weaknesses. His performance and potential was enough for the organization to keep him.

“Putting myself in the 40-man position was almost a sense of relief,” Ingram said. “You start to see that hard work pays off and all the hours and countless repetitions finally pay off. You can just sit and watch, but you can’t sit for long.”

“I’m super proud of him, but I didn’t doubt it for a minute,” Kevin Ingram, Kolton’s father, said upon hearing he was added to the Angels’ 40-man roster.

Heading into this spring, Kolton said some areas of improvement the Angels were hoping might involve using different pitching grips to get more sweeping motion out of his slider, since he already had decent spin. They also wanted him to work on his fastball and add a cutter to his arsenal.

“He did exactly what he was doing in the offseason,” Angels pitching coach Matt Wise said Saturday. “He he did it [in his bullpen session]. It is very impressive.

There are 43 pitchers in the Angels’ camp this spring, including 21 invitees who aren’t on the 40-man roster; A total of 78 players are expected in the Angels’ camp. So there’s a lot of competition to try to get a spot among the team’s relief corps.

“It’s his first year in the 40 men,” Wise said. “So we’re going to give him every opportunity to do his best and we’ll see where we are.”

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