Simmons needs thumb surgery, will miss 2 months

May 9th, 2016

ANAHEIM -- The Angels, already dealing with an unfathomable rash of injuries to a perceivably thin roster, received more grim news Monday when it was revealed that their game-changing shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, will undergo surgery on his left thumb that will probably keep him out at least two months.

Simmons injured the thumb while sprawling to his right to snare a hard grounder off the bat of Evan Longoria in the third inning of Sunday's eventual 3-1 loss to the Rays and immediately came out of the game. An MRI on Monday revealed a "full thickness tear of the ulnar collateral ligament of his left thumb," the Angels announced.

The surgery, which will take place later this week, typically requires six weeks of immobilization and keeps players out two to three months.

The news comes four days after the Angels' best starting pitcher, Garrett Richards, was diagnosed with a high-grade tear of his UCL that will likely require season-ending Tommy John surgery. Richards is the third Angels starting pitcher on the disabled list, along with Andrew Heaney, who is trying to rehab his own damaged UCL, and C.J. Wilson, who won't return from shoulder woes until the middle of June, at the earliest.

Then there's Tyler Skaggs, hoping to come back from August 2014 Tommy John surgery but dealing with biceps tendinitis that has kept him off a mound for more than two weeks. And their veteran closer, Huston Street, has been nursing an oblique strain for the last 16 days.

"Every team deals with this stuff," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. "Sometimes they come at once; sometimes they spread themselves out over the course of a season. But every team deals with loss. It's that ability to manage that. It's one of the reasons we go after Minor League free agents aggressively and so on and so forth. If you just rely on trades to fill voids, good luck. That's not going to happen."

With Simmons out, utility infielder Cliff Pennington is expected to get most of the playing time at shortstop.The Angels will probably call up middle infielder Rey Navarro, already on the 40-man roster, to take Simmons' spot on the active roster when he's officially placed on the DL.

Eppler said the Angels will not move third baseman Yunel Escobar back to shortstop, even though such a move would allow them to add more power by calling up third basemen Kaleb Cowart, Kyle Kubitza or Jefry Marte.

"Yunel is our third baseman," Eppler said. "He will remain there."

Simmons came over in the highly scrutinized November trade that sent the Angels' two best pitching prospects, Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis, to the Braves. Simmons was batting only .219/.246/.281 and recently underwent a 21-at-bat hitless streak. But he was already starting to make a major impact with his renowned defense.

"It's a sizable loss," said Eppler, whose team has dropped seven of its last nine games to move to 13-18. "He's an impactful player, has an impact on the clubhouse. You're losing a key member, but like I said, every team goes through these things. We have some guys on the bench that can absorb more of the playing time and are very savvy and accomplished enough players to be able to do it."

The five aforementioned players on the Angels' DL combined to post a FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement score of 9.0 last year. And that doesn't include Skaggs, who was expected to be a big contributor with more than 18 months separating surgery.

The Angels, getting set to host the Cardinals for a three-game series that starts Tuesday, need reinforcements from the outside. But they have the consensus worst farm system in the game, and it's too early in the year to pull off a major trade.

Somehow, they'll just need to figure it out.

"This team's used to fighting," said Eppler, who has raved about how the Angels remained in the playoff race until the final day last season. "They'll respond the way they've historically responded."