Angels believe shortstop Andrew Velazquez will benefit from more rest
Slumping shortstop Andrew Velazquez was on the bench for the start of Wednesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox, a spot the switch-hitter will find himself in more often — but not permanently — under interim manager Phil Nevin, who replaced the fired Joe Maddon on Tuesday.
Velazquez has played Gold Glove-caliber defense this season, and when the Angels were winning and their offense was among the most productive in baseball for the first six weeks, the Angels could justify carrying his weak bat at the bottom of the order.
But with the Angels taking a franchise-record 13-game losing streak into Wednesday night’s game and three of their top four hitters — Mike Trout, Taylor Ward and Anthony Rendon — sidelined because of injuries, it’s tougher to keep Velazquez’s .178 average and .480 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in the lineup.
Nevin, who was Velazquez’s third-base coach with the New York Yankees last season, also says he thinks the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Velazquez, who had one hit in his last 28 at-bats through Tuesday night, would benefit from more rest.
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Velazquez started 46 of the team’s 52 games from the time he was recalled from triple-A Salt Lake on April 12 through Tuesday night. The most big league games he had started in a season before 2022 was 21 for the Baltimore Orioles in 2020.
“He plays a heck of a shortstop,” Nevin said. “Where I see him, and having had him over the last couple years, is he’s not used to playing every day, you know, and it’s different.
“Even in the minor leagues, you get your rest more often than not, and he’s gonna need his days [off]. That’s just the way the human body works. So he’s going to get them every once, probably a day or two more than you’ve seen.”
Nevin said one area in which he might diverge from his predecessor is bullpen management. While Maddon often made mid-inning pitching changes, Nevin plans to start innings with relievers as much as possible.
“I think those guys are better suited coming in as much as you can with clean innings,” Nevin said. “Just communicating with them, [seeing] how they’re doing each day, where they feel like they stand and just talking to them on a daily basis.
“I feel like it’s important to touch each guy every day and let them know how important they are to our club. That’s everybody. I want them to know what their roles are that day, and we will continue to have those conversations every day.”
Trout, who left Tuesday night’s game because of left-groin tightness after a third-inning double, was still sore Wednesday “but definitely better than he was [Tuesday night],” head athletic trainer Mike Frostad said. Trout is listed as day to day, and his injury was not deemed severe enough to warrant an MRI test.
Rendon (right wrist inflammation) is taking ground balls at third base and hitting in the cage, “but we still don’t know at what point he’ll be able to play,” Frostad said. “Throwing is more of an issue [than hitting].”
Ward’s right hamstring strain is “healing up nicely,” Frostad said, and the right fielder is expected to be activated when he is eligible to come off the injured list for Tuesday night’s game at Dodger Stadium.
Reliever Austin Warren (nasal fracture) was scheduled to throw 25 pitches in his third and likely final rehabilitation outing for triple-A Salt Lake Wednesday night before being activated.
According to Elias, the Angels are the third team in baseball history to be 10 or more games over .500 and have a losing streak of 10 or more games to fall below .500, joining the 1978 Oakland Athletics and 1970 Chicago Cubs.
The Angels were 24-13 and tied for first place with Houston in the American League West on May 15. They lost 17 of their next 20 games, including the 13-game losing streak, to fall to 27-30 and 9 ½ games behind the Astros entering Wednesday night’s game.
Angels interim manager Phil Nevin has the inside track to remain on the job, but strong candidates abound internally and outside the organization.
The Angels recalled infielder Jack Mayfield and outfielder Dillon Thomas from triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday to take the place of left-hander Jose Suarez, who was optioned to triple-A, and infielder Luis Rengifo, who was placed on the paternity list.
Reliever Ty Buttrey, who is attempting a comeback and was pitching at Salt Lake after retiring abruptly before the 2021 season, was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Thomas.
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