Angels versatile Matt Thaiss to make first start at second base against Rangers
Matt Thaiss was drafted in the first round out of Virginia as a catcher in 2016, moved to first base before his first minor league game, and of his 41 major league appearances in the field in 2018 and 2019, 31 were at third base and 10 at first base.
And now, for something totally new, Thaiss will make his first professional start Tuesday night at second base and bat second for the Angels against the Texas Rangers, a move manager Joe Maddon said he made to get another left-handed bat in the lineup against Rangers right-hander Lance Lynn.
“Honestly, it’s his makeup that makes you comfortable doing this,” Maddon said. “He has great instincts for the game. He’s not afraid to try it. Some guys would be. Not Matty. He’s a baseball player. He’s not affected. He sees things. He makes good decisions on the field. So if you want to give somebody this opportunity, he’s the kind of guy.”
Injuries to infielders Franklin Barreto, who was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a left shoulder subluxation, and Luis Rengifo, who remains active despite a sprained left thumb, may have necessitated the move, though Maddon said he anticipates the switch-hitting Rengifo will be available to hit and play the field.
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“I could have put Thaiss at first and Rengifo at second, but the idea of getting both of these guys’ bats in the lineup at the same time is exciting,” Maddon said. “We don’t have that many games left. If you’re going to take a chance, now is the time. Who knows? You might find lightning in a bottle.”
Maddon said Thaiss, 25, had a “limited” amount of work at second base at the team’s alternate training site in Long Beach. Thaiss had an extensive pregame workout under the watchful eye of third base coach Brian Butterfield at Globe Life Field on Tuesday afternoon.
“He’s going out there relatively cold,” Maddon said. “The two big things for me are where to go on cutoffs, relays, bunt defense, first-and-third situations. That’s a bigger concern than just catching the ball. The other one is the double play.
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“He’s had some work with that, but that’s the part to me that’s most uncomfortable in doing this, turning the double play with your back to the runner. That requires the most work. The next is the GPS. Where do I go? So [shortstop Andrelton Simmons] is going to have to be very active with him, try to remind him where to go in different moments.”
Adding to the degree of difficulty for Thaiss, who made all 362 of his minor league starts at first base or third base from 2016-2019, is the artificial surface at the Rangers’ new park.
“It’s fast and bouncy,” Maddon said. “Matty is a tough kid, so I think he will battle through this regardless. I’m not expecting an oil painting by any means. But getting to know this guy, he’s got the right makeup to attempt to do something like this. So be patient with it, and, of course, if we have the lead late, I’ll get him out of there.”
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