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OC Register: Has David Fletcher passed Luis Valbuena on the Angels’ depth chart?


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ANAHEIM — Hours before Monday’s game, Luis Valbuena was on the field for extra batting practice, but he was not in the lineup.

In what could be a sign of a change going forward, Manager Mike Scioscia benched the slumping Valbuena against a right-handed pitcher, instead starting rookie David Fletcher at third base.

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Scioscia, who had used Valbuena against almost all right-handed pitchers despite his slump, would not commit to any plan beyond one day.

“(Valbuena) had a real good workout early trying to get a little more continuity in his swing,” Scioscia said. “We’ll see when we work him back in. Right now there is no doubt that David Fletcher is playing very well and will get some opportunities.”

Valbuena, 32, was hitting .202 with nine homers and a .589 OPS. Last year he hit .199, but still hit 22 homers and drew enough walks to have a passable .727 OPS. He got exceptionally hot just after the All-Star break.

This year, Valbuena has wrapped a 2-for-25 slump around the All-Star break. He hasn’t hit a homer since June 23.

“I think he’s always been streaky, and we haven’t seen the real hot streak yet,” Scioscia said. “At times he’s gotten a little big with his swing. Hopefully he’ll make those adjustments and get back to doing some of the things he can do in our lineup.”

Fletcher has played solid defense and hit .273 with a .672 OPS in the first 88 at-bats of his big league career.

Until Monday, Fletcher had mostly been starting against left-handed pitchers with Valbuena playing against righties. In the previous six games, with Albert Pujols on the disabled list, Valbuena and Jefry Marte platooned at first and Fletcher played third. Once Pujols returned to first base on Monday, Scioscia had to choose between Fletcher and Valbuena for third, and he picked Fletcher.

If the Angels opt to put Valbuena on the bench regularly, they could play Fletcher at third every day. At first, they could start Pujols against righties and Jefry Marte against lefties, with Shohei Ohtani at DH against righties and Pujols against lefties.

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