Fellow backstop Anthony Bemboom was recalled and outfielder Jon Jay had his contract selected to take their places on the 26-man roster. Dexter Fowler was also moved to the 60-day IL to make room for Jay on the 40-man roster. Additionally, Justin Upton was scratched with back stiffness roughly an hour before first pitch, giving Jay the start in left field.
Stassi sustained a sprained left thumb on a foul tip in the first inning against the Royals on Monday, but he remained in the game until he was removed for pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki in the seventh inning. X-rays taken on Stassi's thumb were negative, but he was diagnosed with a sprain after undergoing an MRI exam.
“It’s one of those things where he got hit by a foul tip and as a catcher, I’ve had the same injury and it gets the point where you can hardly put your finger in the glove,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Hopefully, it’s maybe 10 days to two weeks. But you never know.”
Lagares was a late scratch from the lineup before Monday’s game with left calf tightness. He was placed on the IL after trying to test it on Tuesday. Jared Walsh started in right field with Lagares out, with Albert Pujols getting the start at first base. Lagares sustained the injury while playing right field on Saturday.
“He ran around a little and he felt better, but not to the point where we feel comfortable about him not hurting it more,” Maddon said.
Stassi, 30, is hitting .375/.474/.563 with a homer and one RBI through seven games this season, picking up where he left off with last year's breakout season that saw him bat .278/.352/.533 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 31 games. He’s also regarded as one of the best pitch framers in the Majors.
With Stassi out, Suzuki will become the club's regular catcher with Bemboom serving as his backup. Bemboom was already on the 40-man roster and part of the Angels' five-man taxi squad for their road trip. With the team's recent spate of injuries, infielder Jack Mayfield, right-hander Jaime Barria, reliever Ben Rowen, Jay and Bemboom have all joined the roster from the taxi squad at some point this road trip. Fowler was placed on the IL with a season-ending ACL tear on Sunday, while third baseman Anthony Rendon was put on the IL on Monday with a left groin strain.
Maddon explained that only players on the taxi squad are eligible to be added to the roster during road trips and that the club went with veteran players over younger players so that the inexperienced players would get more playing time at the alternate training site in Arizona. So the Angels had to go with Jay over Taylor Ward, even though Ward was already on the 40-man roster.
“We have confidence in our taxi squad and we’ve been tested by having to use all five,” Maddon said. “We feel good about our backups, whether it’s here or those back in Arizona right now. We just want the pitching staff to stay intact and we can manipulate the position players a lot more readily. … But yeah, we'd love to get back to the point where you could just pick and choose whomever at that particular moment.”
Rojas adapting to the Majors
Utilityman José Rojas is off to a slow start offensively to begin his Major League career, going 0-for-13 at the plate with one walk. But Rojas hit two balls hard on Monday, and said he feels close to making a breakthrough.
“I have a few at-bats under my belt, and just like any new level, you have to find ways to adapt and adjust,” Rojas said. “I feel like the adjustments will come. It comes down to simplifying your approach and sticking with your game plan. Last night felt a lot better.”
With Rendon on the IL, Rojas is expected to see more action at third base, although he was out of the lineup on Tuesday in favor of Mayfield. But Rojas said he feels comfortable at third, as it’s the position he played most in the Minor Leagues and saw a lot of time there at the alternate training site last year.
“I’ve started to get more comfortable over the last few years getting more playing time there,” Rojas said. “I’ve gotten more practice there and have also felt more comfortable at first base, second base and in the outfield.”