The journey here from triple-A Salt Lake, as notable as it was, paled to the path Jose Fernandez really completed Friday.
A Cuban who was banned and missed significant time after a failed defection attempt in 2014, Fernandez finally made his big-league debut, at age 30, singling in his first at-bat in the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
“I never lost hope,” he said through an interpreter. “If I did, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Fernandez’s story was made all the warmer when Ian Kinsler homered — his fifth in 10 games — in the seventh inning, lifting the Angels from a run down to a run up as they won their fifth straight.
With Shohei Ohtani going on the disabled list, the Angels promoted the left-hand-hitting Fernandez and started him at first base with Albert Pujols shifting to designated hitter.
His second-inning single was part of the rally that produced the Angels’ first run. Starter Garrett Richards and relievers Noe Ramirez, Jose Alvarez and Blake Parker limited the Twins, giving Kinsler the opportunity to produce.
He drove a 1-2 curveball from Ryan Pressly an estimated 411 feet to left for his two-run homer.
“Any time you can contribute offensively in close games like this,” Kinsler said, “it feels good.”
An inning later, Justin Upton also homered, his fourth in five games.
Fernandez started last season in the Dodgers organization and played primarily at double-A Tulsa. He was injured in July and eventually released.
“It’s not just being 30 years old, it’s his path to the big leagues,” manager Mike Scioscia said.
“It’s definitely a story of perseverance. It’s a story of opportunity.”
Watch your step
The recent bizarre, miserable luck of the Angels is such that Kaleb Cowart wasn’t their first player this week to injure himself walking.
He was, however, the first to do so walking off a bus.
The utility infielder sprained his ankle Thursday morning after the Angels arrived from Southern California. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday.
“He just missed a step and twisted his ankle,” Scioscia said. “Freak injury.”
On Tuesday at Angel Stadium, shortstop Andrelton Simmons turned his ankle walking down the dugout steps and ended up on the disabled list.
Nolan Fontana was promoted from Salt Lake to take Cowart’s roster spot.