It's not the ideal time and place for a crash course on playing the outfield — these things are best done in spring training or the minor leagues — but the Angels and Jefry Marte don't really have a choice.
The season-opening left field platoon of Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry is on the disabled list, and Angels left fielders entered Wednesday with a major league-low .566 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Marte, playing in place of injured third baseman Yunel Escobar and struggling first baseman C.J. Cron, began squaring balls up in late May, hitting .333 with four homers, four doubles and eight runs batted in over 40 plate appearances.
So there was Marte in the Angel Stadium outfield four hours before Wednesday night's game, getting another tutorial from coaches Ron Roenicke and Dino Ebel on how to position himself, read balls off the bat and get an efficient first step.
"I'm working, trying to get a better rhythm and confidence of playing outfield," said Marte, a 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic. "I have to be ready for everything."
Marte started in left field Tuesday. Asked how much outfield he has played in eight professional seasons, he said, "That was my first time ever."
It showed. In the fifth inning of a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins, Marte broke the wrong way on Joe Mauer's tailing drive. Marte got turned around, and a ball that should have been caught fell for a triple.
"The biggest thing is to not react too quick," Roenicke said. "He reacted quickly on the ball Mauer hit. He moved in, and all of a sudden, the ball sliced and he got in a little trouble. Just see the ball first."
Marte also had two hits and a run, so he was back in left field Wednesday.
"He has the tools — he throws well and has good speed," Roenicke said. "Hopefully, he picks it up fast."
Ahead of schedule
Andrelton Simmons, suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb May 8, returned Wednesday night, just five weeks after surgery. The shortstop was projected to miss six to eight weeks. A defensive whiz who was batting .219 when he got hurt, Simmons played six minor league games.
"It's not as strong as the right hand, but it's good enough to do everything," Simmons said. "I was able to test it, and it got better and better each day. It might sting a little bit on a line drive or hard throw, but it won's affect anything."
Infielder Brendan Ryan was designated for assignment. Manager Mike Scioscia said Gregorio Petit, who hit .289 with 10 doubles and 10 RBIs in 31 games in place of Simmons, will make some starts at second base and continue to spell Johnny Giavotella defensively late in games.
Matt Thaiss, the first-round pick who signed for $2.15 million, will join the Angels' rookie league team at Orem, Utah, next week. The left-handed-hitting Thaiss, who was a catcher for most of his college career at Virginia, said he will play mostly first base at Orem. … Huston Street notched his 322nd career save Tuesday, moving him past Jose Mesa for sole possession of 17th place on the all-time list.