Joe Maddon: David Fletcher is ‘an everyday player’ even after Andrelton Simmons returns
Andrelton Simmons, out since July 27 because of a left ankle sprain, has been taking at-bats and running at the Angels’ alternate training site in Long Beach, and manager Joe Maddon said there is an outside chance the shortstop could return during this weekend’s series against the Dodgers.
When Simmons does return, he will not push utility man David Fletcher, who has filled in admirably at shortstop for the last two weeks and has been an offensive spark plug in the leadoff spot, out of the lineup.
“He’s an everyday player,” manager Joe Maddon, speaking on a video call before Wednesday’s series finale against the Oakland Athletics in Angel Stadium, said of Fletcher. “Absolutely.”
Fletcher entered Wednesday’s game with a .306 average, a .388 on-base percentage, three homers, six doubles, nine RBIs and 11 runs.
Fletcher filled in at third base for the first four games of the season while Anthony Rendon recovered from an oblique injury. He has made several spectacular defensive plays at shortstop in Simmons’ absence.
Fletcher will likely move to second base when Simmons returns, sharing that position with the left-handed-hitting Tommy La Stella, but he can also play the corner outfield spots. Maddon would prefer to keep Fletcher in the infield.
“We’ve got to figure out something,” Maddon said. “I talked about him before the season began in spring training with a tremendous amount of platitudes, but now I see how good of an infielder he is. He’s really that good. He’s just not just OK. Beyond his ability to field the ground ball, his thinking on the infield is really sharp.
“When you’ve got a guy that’s good on the dirt, for me, you try to do whatever you can to keep them on the dirt. So we’re going to have things to think about. We haven’t had the conversations yet. How do we maneuver these guys? Where do we play them? But Fletch plays. He’s just got to play.”
Maddon could have used Thursday’s off day to bring Dylan Bundy back for Sunday’s series finale against the Dodgers in Anaheim. Bundy, 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA in four starts, threw seven shutout innings, allowing four hits, striking out 10 and walking one, in Tuesday night’s win over Oakland,
In his first seven games since his son, Beckham Aaron Trout, was born, Angels center fielder Mike Trout has batted .367 with six home runs.
Instead, Maddon will keep the rotation in order and have Julio Teheran, who was tagged for five runs and five hits in two innings of Monday night’s 10-9 win over the A’s, start Sunday against the Dodgers.
“We kept it in line, because we have to get Julio going also,” Maddon said. “All these games count. I’ve seen Teheran pitch well, and often. So it’s like Rendon and others who are coming out of slumps. [Teheran] needs opportunities to get back out there because he’s going to be a big part of us doing well in the latter part of the season.”
Hansel Robles, who lost his closing job when he gave up nine earned runs and three homers in 3 2/3 innings of his first four appearances for a 22.09 ERA, has not allowed a run in 2 2/3 innings of his last three games, all in low-leverage situations, his fastball touching 97 mph at times.
But Maddon is not ready to hand the ninth-inning role back to Robles, who went 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA and 23 saves in 71 games last season, striking out 75 and walking 16 in 72 2/3 innings. Not when Ty Buttrey, Felix Pena and Keynan Middleton have pitched so well in the back of the bullpen.
“Part of it is the fact the other guys are doing well, too,” Maddon said, when asked how Robles could work himself back into higher-leverage spots. “Yeah, the stuff seems to be trending in an upward way, so we’ll keep trying to get him back into even tighter situations, pick the right spots for him and keep moving him toward the back end.”
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