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OC Register: Angels’ Tyler Wade, Andrew Velazquez are seizing their opportunity

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ANAHEIM ― Tyler Wade and Andrew Velazquez were not the Angels’ biggest offseason acquisitions. The two backup infielders were acquired from the New York Yankees last November – Wade in a trade for a player to be named later, Velazquez on a waiver claim.

For a variety of reasons, some beyond their control, Wade and Velazquez have exceeded expectations. An early-season injury to David Fletcher created playing time for both middle infielders, and the pair has seized the opportunity.

Velazquez has shown enough in his brief time at shortstop to relocate Fletcher back to second base upon his pending return. Wade, meanwhile, has fielded 41 balls in play between shortstop and second; all but two have resulted in outs.

For all their steady glovework, Wade and Velazquez have been even more pleasant surprises on offense.

In the second inning of the Angels’ 9-5 victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday night, Wade bunted for a single to load the bases. The next batter, Taylor Ward, hit an 0-and-2 pitch for a grand slam.

Thursday, Velazquez reached base on a sacrifice bunt attempt when flustered first baseman Owen Miller dropped a low throw from pitcher Cal Quantrill. That led to another bases-loaded situation and three more runs in an eventual 4-1 win.

“I’d like to see them being dynamic, being able to bunt – not only for a sacrifice but for a hit,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “You have to understand what that does to the psyche of the other team also. It really does. As Velazquez gets better at (bunting), we’ll use him even more with it. Wade’s the guy who knows what he’s doing there.”

Wade said he practices bunting daily throughout the season, often shortening the distance between himself and the pitching machine to 30 feet or less in batting practice before he squares up.

Velazquez said he knew his bunting form was off when he joined the Angels. Since then, he’s worked to get his eyes closer to the barrel of the bat when he squares up, and become more consistent in his approach.

Bunting has fallen out of favor as an offensive strategy among MLB teams over the past decade. Now, in 2022, the effects of a deadened baseball are becoming well-documented. The home run rate is down. Slugging percentage and run-scoring have fallen in turn. The need to generate offense without emphasizing “exit velocity” and “launch angle” hasn’t been this high since Statcast introduced the terms to the baseball lexicon.

Enter Wade and Velazquez. Neither is a power hitter – they have seven career homers between them – but both are fleet of foot. Emphasizing the bunt to take advantage of their speed presents more of an advantage than the Angels’ front office could have anticipated. The past two games offered proof of concept.

“I think being able to move guys over, put pressure on the defense – that’s hard to defend against, especially when you have guys who can run,” Wade said. “We’re not playing selfish baseball. We’re just doing anything we can to move the guy over, get the next guy up, and manufacture runs.”


David Fletcher was cleared to return by the Angels’ medical staff, head athletic trainer Mike Frostad said. The infielder returned from his minor league rehabilitation assignment Wednesday for an evaluation, and Frostad said “everything checked out pretty good.”

Fletcher, who has been on the injured list with a strained left hip since April 12, took ground balls at shortstop and second base for about five minutes total. He also took batting practice indoors. He will accompany the team on its road trip to Chicago and Boston, and he could be activated as soon as Friday.

“There was no setback,” Frostad said. “The reports we got from Triple-A, they felt that he could maybe use a little more (time).”

Fletcher said he feels good at the plate in spite of his small-sample hitting totals (four hits in 30 at-bats between the majors and Triple-A) in the regular season. He was unsure how the hip ailment, which had been nagging him since spring training, would impact his ability to run upon his return.

“It’s kind of a confusing injury,” Fletcher said.


The Angels and White Sox announced the probable pitchers for their upcoming four-game series. Noah Syndergaard will oppose Lucas Giolito on Friday. Left-hander Jose Suarez will face right-hander Vince Velasquez on Saturday. Right-hander Michael Lorenzen faces left-hander Dallas Keuchel on Sunday. Lefty Patrick Sandoval will see right-hander Dylan Cease on Monday. … Peter Bull, the Angels’ director of entertainment and production, retired after 29 seasons with the organization following Thursday’s game. Bull was involved in the creation of the “Rally Monkey.”


Angels (RHP Noah Syndergaard, 2-0, 2.12 ERA) at Chicago White Sox (RHP Lucas Giolito, 0-0, 1.13 ERA), Friday, 4 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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