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OC Register: After rehab stint, Angels’ David Fletcher will get a second look

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ANAHEIM ― The Angels’ Opening Day shortstop could be their starting second baseman in short order.

David Fletcher began a minor league rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday. He served as the Bees’ designated hitter, but he could get a long runway at second base once he’s cleared to play the field.

That’s because the Angels haven’t skipped a beat defensively in the absence of Fletcher, who went on the injured list with a left hip strain on April 12.

Fletcher’s replacement at shortstop, Andrew Velazquez, has been credited with four Defensive Runs Saved – one shy of the MLB lead – in a mere eight games. (For comparison’s sake, former Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons had a career-high 41 DRS over 158 games in 2017.) Velazquez, a 27-year-old journeyman, got his ninth consecutive start at shortstop on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles.

“There’s a much greater chance (Fletcher) is going to play more second base than he did before,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “If everybody is well when he comes back, it’s going to be good to move people in and out to make sure nobody gets overworked. It’s a great problem to have.

“If he’s on the field at the same time as Velazquez, you’ll see (Fletcher) at second base. If he isn’t, you’ll see him at shortstop.”

Fletcher got the plurality of his starts at second base in 2021. Prior to that, he was a jack-of-all-trades utilityman, appearing at no fewer than four defensive positions from 2018-20. Second base is considered Fletcher’s best position; he was credited with 11 DRS there in 2021, when Maddon openly lobbied for Fletcher to win a Gold Glove award.

The Angels claimed Velazquez off waivers from the Yankees last November. A career .178 hitter, Velazquez held a .143 batting average through Thursday.

Maddon said there is no target date for Fletcher’s return.

“We’re going to be patient with him,” he said. “It could be a couple days. It could be a week.”

Fletcher went 0 for 5 with a strikeout in his Salt Lake debut.


Right-hander Griffin Canning threw his second bullpen session Friday as he progresses back from a stress reaction in his lower back. He threw 25 pitches, all fastballs.

The former Santa Margarita High and UCLA star said he expects to maintain a schedule of throwing bullpens every Tuesday and Friday until he is cleared to face live hitters. So far, the results have been encouraging. Canning said he hasn’t felt this healthy throwing a baseball in “a couple years, honestly.”

“Everybody’s dealing with (health) stuff,” Canning said. “You don’t realize it until you feel really healthy, which is how I’m feeling now. I’m getting a better understanding of how I need to prepare my body, what feels good, what’s like compensating and pitching through stuff – staying consistent with everything.”

Canning said he has adopted a couple of minor mechanical changes designed to lessen the load on his back.

“My two bullpens and playing catch, I feel athletic and like how I should feel for sure,” he said.

Canning began the season on the 60-day injured list.


Shohei Ohtani will take his next turn in the Angels’ starting rotation in order, Wednesday night against the Cleveland Guardians, Maddon said. … If Ohtani has another perfect game in progress, how long will he be allowed to pitch? Said Maddon, “120, 130 (pitches) probably would be the Waterloo, the point you’d probably say ‘let’s call off the jam.’ The way he was throwing (Thursday in Houston) he could have gotten it done within 120 or 125. Which I would have been fine with.”


Baltimore (RHP Spenser Watkins, 0-0, 2.25 ERA) at Angels (RHP Noah Syndergaard, 2-0, 1.59 ERA), Saturday, 6 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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