David Fletcher is a quiet asset for the Angels
His first hit was a triple that drove in two runs, highlighting a debut that continued with two more hits before being punctuated with an alert defensive play that saved the Angels a run.
The opening statement was a raucous and rambling one for David Fletcher, who, before that day in June, probably never had been accused of being raucous or cited for rambling on about anything.
“He is a kid of few words,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “You can ask him a 30-second question with three different ways to go, and he’ll say, ‘Yes,’ as his answer.”
With 2018 teetering on becoming another lost season for the ailing Angels, what hasn’t been lost is the opportunity the injuries have afforded players like Fletcher, one of nine Angels to make his big-league debut this season.
The anticipated unveiling of rookie Shohei Ohtani was a story told through updates that arrived daily — and often more frequently — from the first sore hamstring of spring training.
But in February, almost no one was talking about what Jaime Barria, Justin Anderson or Jose Briceno might bring the Angels.
Jose Fernandez and Michael Hermosillo were mostly unknown faces wandering through the Tempe Diablo Stadium clubhouse.
Luke Bard and Jake Jewell were considered shots so long that they went nearly undetected.
While each rookie has succeeded or failed to varying degrees, the Angels and their 25 disabled list moves have emerged as baseball’s leaders in turning pages, not to mention cheeks.
“Every time someone goes down, it’s a chance for someone else,” veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “That’s the way baseball works. It’s up to those guys to take advantage of it.”
Fletcher mostly has, his performance, baseball smarts and versatility stating his case in a way he never would.
It’s not as if he’s simply shy. Teammates explain that Fletcher willingly talks to them all the time.
And he isn’t intimidated by the big league environment, much less the media hyping it — Fletcher has looked like he belongs from the moment he pulled on a cap bearing a halo.
It’s just that, when he’s asked a question, Fletcher always seems to seek the shortest possible route to his answer. Going from home to first in conversation, he prefers to travel 90 feet and not an inch longer.
“Believe me,” Fletcher said, “you’re not even close to the first person to tell me that.”
Through 27 games, he has batted .250, provided more than capable defense at four positions, including one — right field — he never had played before and hit at the very top and absolute bottom of the lineup.
Almost instantly, Fletcher became an Angels fan favorite, all 5-foot-10, 175 pounds of him, his stature that of an underdog, even if his skills suggest otherwise.
“He’s just a baseball player,” said reliever Taylor Cole, who also played with Fletcher this season at triple-A Salt Lake. “He is so loose and so in his element when he’s on a ballfield.”
Fletcher displayed the width of his game last week when his leadoff homer against Seattle tied the score, and then three days later, when his sacrifice bunt against the Dodgers helped the Angels load the bases.
Following the game in which he homered, Fletcher was the postgame on-field interview for FOX Sports West.
Perhaps aware of Fletcher’s aversion to sound bites, producers asked Mike Trout — another player not exactly famous for his effusiveness — to join his teammate on camera.
“David’s extremely intelligent,” Scioscia said. “He’s got a great baseball IQ. He knows the game. But you can’t get him to talk about himself at all. He’s not going to elaborate on anything.”
During the 2016 Arizona Fall League, Anderson lived with Fletcher, the two of them spending every Sunday at a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings watching NFL games. Sundays are off days in the AFL.
Anderson said they’d discuss everything from what was happening in the real games to how their fantasy teams were faring. Other than those afternoons, it was mostly baseball between them.
“That’s David Fletcher,” Anderson said. “That’s just his nature.”
Cole said he recently noticed that Fletcher was wearing new cleats, the latest Trout model. He kidded his quiet teammate about accumulating more noisy swag now as a big leaguer.
He said he also continues to needle Fletcher about how his conservative wardrobe will look completely different after another five years in the majors, even though Cole knows the notion is ridiculous.
“I think he’s just one of those people who doesn’t change no matter what,” Cole said. “That’s who he is. That’s what people love about him. He’s not trying to be any different.”
And that’s David Fletcher, a kid of few words but, through 27 games, some notable deeds.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.