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Upton set to begin rehab assignment

@RhettBollinger
June 6, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Angels left fielder Justin Upton, who has been out since late March with left turf toe, is set to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Friday, manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday. Upton had been taking live batting practice at Angel Stadium the last

ANAHEIM -- Angels left fielder Justin Upton, who has been out since late March with left turf toe, is set to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Friday, manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday.

Upton had been taking live batting practice at Angel Stadium the last two days, but the rehab assignment will give him the chance to also see action in left field. Ausmus said the live batting practice sessions have been going well and Upton has shown impressive power, including two homers on Wednesday and another on Thursday.

"He did well,” Ausmus said. “I think he had nine plate appearances. Hit one off the foul pole in left field. He actually looks good swinging the bat."

The Angels aren’t putting a timeline on Upton's stint in the Minors, but the maximum amount of time he can be on a rehab assignment is 20 days. Upton is more likely to get roughly 40 at-bats, which means he’ll play in about 10 to 15 games. He’s also expected to move up to Triple-A Salt Lake at some point to face better pitching.

Simmons takes grounders

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, on the 10-day injured list with a Grade 3 left ankle sprain sustained on May 20, progressed to taking grounders at shortstop and throwing to first base on Thursday. He’s also started swinging the bat, but Ausmus noted that Simmons is still working to regain his mobility, as the grounders were right at him.

“His lateral movement is still restricted at this point,” Ausmus said. “It's a good step, but he still has quite a bit of time."

Ausmus wouldn’t say it, but Simmons does appear ahead of schedule, at least considering Grade 3 ankle sprains usually require eight to 12 weeks to heal. Simmons sustained the injury just a little more than two weeks ago, but is already able to participate in limited baseball activities. He’s still likely at least a month away from a return, based on that timetable.

Simmons, though, told Ausmus he believes he could play now, which is why Ausmus is relying on the medical staff instead.

"I don't trust him,” Ausmus said with a laugh. “At all. He told me today it could play. Simba is a voracious worker and has a very high pain tolerance. You can make the argument that him at 80 percent is better than most at 100 percent. But we still don't want it to affect his play."

Angels make roster moves

After using five relievers in Wednesday’s marathon win that lasted four hours and 13 minutes, the Angels recalled right-hander Jaime Barria from Triple-A Salt Lake to serve as a long reliever. Third baseman Taylor Ward was optioned to Triple-A to make room for him. Additionally, reliever John Curtiss elected free agency after being designated for assignment for a second time in a month.

Barria was scheduled to start with Salt Lake on Thursday, so he can provide plenty of length in the bullpen.

He’s also a possibility to start on Saturday if he doesn’t pitch in relief, as the Angels have yet to determine who will start that day. Right-hander Nick Tropeano, who last started Sunday with the Bees, is also a candidate to make that start.

Smith to be reinstated Friday

Catcher Kevan Smith, who has been on the seven-day concussion list since May 21, will be activated on Friday before the series opener against the Mariners. He caught a live batting practice session and also hit live pitching on Thursday without any issues. Catcher Dustin Garneau, who had a walk-off RBI double on Wednesday, is expected to be designated for assignment, as he doesn’t have any Minor League options.

Ohtani to face Kikuchi?

When Mariners lefty Yusei Kikuchi started against the Angels on May 30, Ausmus held Shohei Ohtani out of the lineup, as he started against soft-tossing lefties Tommy Milone and Marco Gonzales instead. It denied Ohtani the opportunity to face Kikuchi, who attended the same high school as he did in Japan. Kikuchi, 27, is three years older than Ohtani, 24, so they were never teammates, but they did face each other professionally in Japan.

“He'll play against Kikuchi,” Ausmus said. “Unless something happens between now and then."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.