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New Angels shortstop José Iglesias makes spectacular plays for a second day in a row

Angels shortstop José Iglesias during a spring training game.
New Angels shortstop José Iglesias made a spectacular catch during the team’s 10-9 spring-training loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday in Phoenix.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

Joe Maddon wants to challenge his infielders to win Gold Glove awards this year.

“I think we have a lot of potential candidates,” the Angels manager said.

Barely a week into spring training, new shortstop José Iglesias might be at the top of the list.

For a second straight game, Iglesias produced an impressive defensive performance Monday, making several jaw-dropping plays in the Angels’ 10-9 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

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Iglesias started an unexpected double play in the third inning, tracking down a shallow pop fly in left field that looked as though it was going to drop. Running away from the infield as he made the catch, Iglesias then flipped the ball behind his back with his glove to left fielder Justin Upton, who threw to second base to retire a Brewers baserunner who had broken for third.

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“You gotta be prepared for everything,” said Upton, who previously played with Iglesias with the Detroit Tigers. “I’ve seen him make that play a bunch of times, going back like that, but he’s never flipped me the ball. That was a surprise, but we completed the play.”

In the fourth, Iglesias was called upon again on a sharply hit one-hopper up the middle. After initially knocking the ball down, Iglesias fell to the ground. But he sprung immediately to his feet, turned around to pick up the ball, then casually delivered a perfect throw across his body to first base for the out.

It all almost made Iglesias’ web gem Sunday look routine, when he gathered a slow roller behind the mound with a bare hand and delivered a diving throw to first with his body nearly parallel to the ground.

“He’s nasty,” pitcher Andrew Heaney said.

The Angels are used to elite play on the infield. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons twice won a Gold Glove during his tenure with the club from 2016 to 2020 before signing with the Minnesota Twins this winter.

But with Iglesias, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Baltimore Orioles, and David Fletcher, who this season will be the team’s everyday second baseman after spending his first three seasons as a utility player, paired up the middle, the Angels aren’t expecting a drop-off.

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“We’re just lucky,” Heaney said. “We got guys that are willing to put their bodies on the line to go make plays.”

Upton clears batter’s eye … twice

After an ice-cold start to the shortened 2020 season, Justin Upton closed last year on a 22-game hot streak during which he hit .303 and had a 1.003 on-base-plus-slugging.

So far this spring, he’s remained locked in at the plate. Monday was Upton’s best game of Cactus League play yet, as he hammered two home runs over the center-field batter’s eye. He’s now five for 10 to begin the spring with three home runs and five RBIs.

“Just being able to stay through the middle,” Upton said of his offensive approach, “keeps you on everything, keeps you on all pitches. I’ve been able to handle a few off-speed pitches early in camp and handled a fastball today. Trying to maintain that approach can help me throughout the season.”

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Angels fall, 10-9, to Milwaukee despite two home runs by Justin Upton and one each by Anthony Rendon, Jordyn Adams and José Rojas.

Barria waiting to hear about option

Maddon confirmed Monday that the team is waiting to hear if pitcher Jaime Barria will be eligible this season to be optioned for a fourth time.

Normally, MLB players can only be optioned to the minor leagues in three seasons, and last year was Barria’s third. But Barria might qualify for a fourth — players are eligible for a fourth option if they have accrued less than five full seasons in the majors and minors — because of 2020’s shortened campaign.

A “full season” is defined by MLB as spending at least 90 days on an active MLB or minor league roster. Last season’s schedule lasted fewer than 70 days. If 2020 isn’t counted as a full season — a determination that reportedly has not yet been made — Barria could be optioned in 2021.

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“Obviously that’s got to be weighing on his mind a little bit,” Maddon said. “But in the meantime, we’re just going to go about our business as normal with him, get him stretched out as well as we can, knowing that he could do multiple things.”


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