The sound of crutches clicking up the back hallway of the clubhouse at Angel Stadium on Tuesday gave Andrelton Simmons away before he emerged to face reporters for the first time since hurting himself trying to beat out a groundball he hit some 18 hours earlier.
The Angels’ Gold Glove shortstop was diagnosed with a grade 3 left ankle sprain, the most severe possible. He was placed on the 10-day injured list with the expectation that the injury will require more time than that to heal. Simmons, the cleanup hitter, will not play for an unspecified — and likely significant — amount of time.
“What I know so far is it’s not a high ankle sprain,” Simmons said. “That is kind of good news. That shortens the time a little bit from what it could have been.”
A visit with a specialist Wednesday will determine how long Simmons will be out of the lineup. His ankle swelled worse than he’d ever seen it in the middle of the night, he said. In the interim, the Angels will turn to rookie Luis Rengifo, who was called up from triple-A, to share time at shortstop with Zack Cozart and David Fletcher.
Replacing Simmons for any period will prove challenging. As he flashed his customary sterling defense, Simmons was on track for a career year at the plate. He had a .298 batting average and .738 on-base-plus-slugging percentage through 46 games and was hitting balls harder than he ever had without losing his contact-first approach.
“It’s a huge blow,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s one of the best all-around players in the game. His defense is probably more valuable than a lot of players’ bats.”
It was a hard-luck injury for Simmons. On a one-out ground ball to first base, he burst out of the right-handed batter’s box and tried to earn a single. But in lunging and overextending his stride, something he’s attempted without injury multiple times, Simmons missed the base. He tripped, turned his ankle inward and went rolling down the first-base line in pain.
“I was just panicking about how bad it is,” Simmons said. “I didn’t hear a pop so that was good, but at the same time, I know I’m not in agony, but it doesn’t feel right. It hurts.”
The Angels only recently welcomed back Shohei Ohtani from his offseason Tommy John surgery, and the offense received a spark. The Angels entered Tuesday batting .289 with 65 runs since Ohtani returned May 7. Only the Twins (.297) and Houston Astros (.291) are hitting better in that span.
Ohtani suffered a minor contusion on his right ring finger in the at-bat prior to Simmons’ injury, but he was in the lineup Tuesday.
“Hopefully we keep playing like we’ve been playing,” Simmons said. “We weren’t winning every game, but I feel like every game [in the last week] we had a chance, we’re in the game for sure. So, hopefully, we keep that going and see where we’re at when I’m back.”
It remains to be seen how Cozart, the veteran who had his playing time reduced because Tommy La Stella and Fletcher have hit so well, adjusts to being in the lineup on a daily basis. Since joining the Angels last season, he has hit .194.
“These aren’t the circumstances you’d want it to come under,” Ausmus said of Cozart’s reintegration to the Angels lineup. “[He] will probably get some more at-bats and hopefully we can get him going.”
Heaney still an option
The Angels have not announced a starter for Sunday’s home stand finale against Texas. Either Andrew Heaney or Felix Pena, who threw five strong innings after an opener at Angel Stadium on Monday night, could be tabbed to pitch. Heaney cleared another hurdle in his return from elbow inflammation, throwing 73 pitches and striking out 10 in a 4-1/3-inning rehab start Monday.
“I want to make sure [Heaney’s] OK,” Ausmus said. “He still has to throw another bullpen [session] and then we’ll make a decision as to whether he makes another rehab or he makes a start here.”
Angels catcher Kevan Smith was hit in the mask by a foul tip in the fourth inning Tuesday and later replaced by Jonathan Lucroy. Smith played the rest of the inning and even had an at-bat before he was removed and placed in concussion-testing protocol. Jose Briceno, the only other catcher on the 40-man roster, is sidelined at triple-A because of a shoulder strain. … Angels bullpen coach Andrew Bailey will lead another group of Angels and Twins to a children’s hospital this week. Mike Trout, Cody Allen and Luke Bard will be joined at Children’s Hospital of Orange County on Wednesday by Twins pitchers Kyle Gibson and Blake Parker, designated hitter Nelson Cruz and former Twins player Tony Oliva. … Top Angels prospect Jo Adell is now represented by Scott Boras, who is also the agent for Angels Matt Harvey and Noe Ramirez.