David Fletcher entered the Angels clubhouse on Wednesday afternoon after spending a few days in Reno, Nevada, and another in Round Rock, Texas, nursing a tight left hip.
It was back but with no clear plan as to when it will be activated.
There were mixed messages throughout the week about the status of Fletcher, who was initially added to the injured list on April 12.
There could be a few factors at play as the angels weigh up what makes the most sense. The top priority is Fletcher’s health. While Fletcher and head athletic trainer Mike Frostad indicated he was ready to play, Angels manager Joe Maddon said he wanted to take it easy on Fletcher to avoid re-aggravating the injury.
The other possible factor is Fletcher’s place in the roster. Maddon reiterated that he wants Fletcher back and feels the team is better off with him on the roster. But there’s also the issue of cutting into the current crop of intermediate players who have all done well and brought a different dynamic to the roster.
Fletcher, of course, is by far the highest-paid midfielder on the Angels’ roster. He signed a five-year, $26 million deal before last season. The team is invested in him and believes in his success despite a down season at the plate in 2021. His wRC+ — a metric that measures runs created — ranked second-to-last in MLB among qualified hitters last season. , according to FanGraphs.
“We have so many guys right now who are really good players, so pushing him now to get injured again wouldn’t be very smart,” Maddon said. “If we think he’s ready to go, we’ll make that decision as well.”
Importantly, the team’s head coach said he was ready to go.
“Whether he’s 100 per cent or 80 per cent, I don’t think that’s going to change the fact that he’s ready to go out there,” Frostad said shortly before Maddon’s comment. He also added that it will be up to the front office to decide if it will finally be activated on Friday.
On Sunday, Frostad expected Fletcher to be medically cleared that night. But Fletcher was not activated and stayed with the Triple-A team and went to Round Rock. Frostad noted that the decision to keep him in the minors was based on reports the major league team received from Triple-A staff.
Frosted said again on Thursday that Fletcher had done well with the doctor on Wednesday and would participate in baseball activities on Thursday.
Fletcher replied, “Yeah,” when asked if he felt ready to return. He also said it could happen Friday in Chicago.
“I feel good,” Fletcher said.
One area of concern that remains for Maddon is Fletcher’s run. Fletcher, however, said he felt good running.
In summary, the Angels could very well call Fletcher on Friday. This would require sending a player down. When Monday rolls around and the roster size drops from 28 to 26, the Angels will need to send two more players. One of them could very well be another inside midfielder.
If the Angels keep Andrew Velazquez, Fletcher will likely start at second base when Velazquez is in the lineup and short when he’s not. As far as Fletcher is concerned, this is one of the few issues where there is clarity at the moment.
The bigger question that lingers, however, is when will he return to a major league squad. Maddon noted that while he was running smoothly on Thursday, he might not be activated immediately.
“What” well? “I’m sure he could swing the bat well, he could line up the pitch balls well. He can throw well. But how does he really feel?
Reid Detmer reverse course
The outing appeared to follow the same path at just two batters in the game Thursday. The theme of Reid Detmers’ MLB career has been inefficiency resulting in quick hooks.
The first two batters saw a total of 16 pitches. A full walk. Another total strikeout.
But this departure did not follow the path for which it seemed destined. Instead, Detmers became more efficient. He was able to go five innings, allowed a run and said he thought he could have gone further in the Angels’ 4-1 win over the Guardians.
“Obviously the pitch count is going up pretty quickly,” Detmers said. “I’d like to sort that out a bit, I’d like to go further in the games. But I just have to move on. … I finally felt good. Had some good things. And yes, I got the victory .
The big key for Detmers in this game, as he and Maddon said, was fastball control. It can have good curve, slider and change. But if his fastball is all over the place, it won’t matter.
“He used it a lot more often,” Maddon said. “Overall, better command of it. Improves his other throws. I loved his fastball. Aside, I don’t know if that’s actually the case or maybe it’s just my imagination. It felt like it had more extension up front and the ball came out hotter.
It wasn’t Maddon’s imagination. His fastball speed was also nearly a mile per hour faster than his typical average of 92.8 mph.
It was by no means a dominant release. But it was his second straight start in five innings. He allowed two runs on 70 shots last time out. His only run allowed on Thursday was a home run against Austin Hedges against the penultimate batter.
The Angels return to the road for a four-game series in Chicago, followed by three in Boston. The team is in first place. He swept his first four-game set since September 2020. It was a full streak from the Angels, who allowed just seven runs in four games.
Detmers’ success will be a big part of how the Angels fare this year, and it makes perfect sense.
“To see these guys every day is really amazing,” Detmers said. “We have excellent staff. Great people to work with. You just want to do your best every time because we are good. Was good.”
• Shohei Ohtani was given his first day off of the season on Thursday after kicking off on Wednesday. He went five innings, allowed two runs and had three base hits. Maddon said the decision was made collectively with Ohtani.
• After Taylor Ward finished a shy single of the cycle on Wednesday night, he said he was aware of the potential feat when he came to bat in the eighth inning and wished he hadn’t thought about it too much. He swung on the first pitch and flew to the right. Ward is only the second player in MLB history to hit a double, triple and home run while scoring four runs in a game. The other was Roger Maris in 1958, according to STATS.
(Photo by David Fletcher: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)