Angels not concerned following early exit for Neto (calf)

June 23rd, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- A night after lefty Patrick Sandoval exited his start early with a left elbow strain that landed him on the injured list the following day, the Angels saw shortstop leave Saturday’s game against the Dodgers with left calf tightness.

While the Angels are still waiting to learn the severity of Sandoval’s injury after an MRI exam early Saturday, Neto was optimistic about his ailment when talking with reporters after a 7-2 loss at Dodger Stadium.

He said he first injured himself after fouling a ball off his lower left leg in the second inning before aggravating it on a play in the fourth inning. But he was hopeful he’d be back in the lineup on Monday against the A’s after Sunday’s off-day.

“I fouled one off my calf and it wasn’t pretty, but I tried to grind it out,” Neto said. “It never got better, but I didn't want to come out of the game. I got to that play pretty good, but when I planted my feet, my left leg gave out on me.”

Miguel Rojas hit a grounder to Neto’s right and he tried to make a sliding stop and throw to first base. However, Neto slipped while trying to make the play, as he couldn’t put his weight on his left leg.

Manager Ron Washington said he believes Neto will be fine with a day off to heal.

“He’s fine,” Washington said. “No concern. My intention is for him to play on Monday. He got treatment on it and he’s got tomorrow off. So hopefully he’ll show up Monday ready to go.”

Neto, though, was in obvious pain after the play, and after meeting with Washington and assistant athletic trainer Eric Munson, he was removed from the game in favor of Michael Stefanic, with Stefanic going to second base and Luis Guillorme moving over to shortstop. Neto said it was more for precautionary reasons as it didn’t make sense to risk further injury given his importance to the club.

“The trainers came out and there wasn’t really a reason for me to keep going,” Neto said. “It’s early in the season. So it’s just precautionary to come out of the game to make sure everything's good. And just get out before anything major happens.”

It was a brief scare for Neto, who has been a terrific defender all season and has been heating up at the plate. Neto, the No. 13 overall selection in the 2022 Draft, has slashed .250/.299/.433 with 10 homers, 16 doubles and 32 RBIs in 74 games in his first full season in the Majors. But he’s been even better since the calendar turned to May, slashing .265/.313/.483 with eight homers, nine doubles and 21 RBIs in 45 games.

He’s proved that his unorthodox leg kick can work in the Majors and produce above-average power for a shortstop. He continues to tone it down with two strikes and has become a favorite of Washington’s for his willingness to work and his self-confidence.

If Neto has to miss any time and isn’t ready by Monday, the Angels don’t have many options at shortstop. Kyren Paris would be their top choice to be called up in the unlikely event of a Neto injured list stint, while Guillorme and Luis Rengifo can both handle short. But the Angels have started Rengifo at short just once this year, as most of his time has come at third base and second base.

And while the Angels were able to overcome Sandoval’s injury in their 3-2 win in 10 innings in the series opener, they were held in check by right-hander Tyler Glasnow, while right-hander Zach Plesac struggled in the finale. Plesac went 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits, including a 459-foot homer from Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani homered in both games against his former club.

But Washington was pleased with a series split against the high-powered Dodgers and believes it’s something the Angels can build on going forward.

“They’re a pretty good team that showed their power and their might tonight,” Washington said of the Dodgers. “They did what they do. We were fortunate to hold them down last night. But we just couldn’t hold them down tonight.”