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Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is learning how to be an Angel

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is learning how to be an Angel
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons hits during a spring training batting practice in Tempe, Ariz. (Matt York / Associated Press)

Andrelton Simmons sought to sit in on an Angels pitchers meeting this week, before he headed to the batting cages. An early arrival to camp, the new Angels shortstop put on his preferred swinging attire — a long-sleeved shirt and shorts — and walked into a conference room.

Once he got word, Manager Mike Scioscia called him out. Simmons' shorts violated team policy, as all players attending meetings must be dressed in baseball pants and ready to hit the field.

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Now he owes the team a meal. Simmons' name is one of several already listed, below Scioscia's, on the Angels' lunch-buying whiteboard in their spring-training clubhouse at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"This is part of the culture," Scioscia said. "They buy lunch if they mess up here or there."

Simmons was not fined. He thought it was a funny way to symbolize how he is learning the ways of a new organization. He has not yet house-hunted in Orange County or even visited Southern California since the November trade that sent him from Atlanta to Anaheim, but he'll be there for the next five years, a franchise cornerstone the Angels want to pair with center fielder Mike Trout.

The 26-year-old Simmons is the consensus best defensive player in the sport. His agility and range are elite, and his arm strength is absurd. Most major league organizations wanted him to pitch when they scouted him in the spring of 2010 at Western Oklahoma State College.

Times reporter Pedro Moura discusses Mike Trout's arrival at the Angels' spring training camp.

But Atlanta let him play the field, and within two years he became a fixture on the infield.

Last off-season, in committing to a full-scale reconstruction of their flawed roster, the Braves traded away the last of their established, useful players: Simmons and right-hander Shelby Miller. Sent away in the year before were closer Craig Kimbrel, left-hander Alex Wood, and outfielders Melvin Upton and Jason Heyward, among others.

Simmons' overall skill on offense is still unclear. He has had good seasons and he has had bad seasons. Last year was closer to the latter. Only four players who logged as many plate appearances as Simmons hit fewer home runs than his four.

Of course, one of those was Erick Aybar, the man he is replacing as an Angel.

Asked what he wanted to be on offense, Simmons said a .280 hitter. He said he'd like to drive in 100 runs, then noted he knew that was unrealistic.

"You want to be productive, whatever it is," he said. "You want to move the guy over when you have to. You want to come up with a big hit."

He said his favorite action on defense is throwing a man out at home, because of the rarity of it and because of the exponential nature of it. When he does it, he stops a run from scoring and adds an unlikely out.

The men who'll play the field alongside Simmons have seen his highlights. Many have mentioned the instances when he ventures deep into a hole to reach a grounder.

"Hopefully a couple of the base hits up the middle I won't even have to go for," Trout said. "I'll just watch him make an unbelievable play."

Short hops

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Non-roster outfielder Quintin Berry taped a piece of paper to his warmup jersey Thursday morning. "I'm not Simmons," it read. The 31-year-old Berry said more than 20 people, including teammates, have confused him with Simmons this spring. …C.J. Wilson has not yet resumed throwing after ceasing his buildup this week when he felt soreness in his left shoulder. An MRI exam revealed tendinitis. …Albert Pujols has listed his five-bedroom house in Irvine for sale. The listed price is $7.75 million. He said this week he and his wife, Deidre, have decided to move closer to the coast.

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