NEW YORK -- When Angels players got to their lockers on Saturday, T-shirts featuring shortstop Andrew Velazquez, who goes by “Squid” as his nickname, were awaiting them.
The shirts -- the idea of staff assistant Tim Buss -- featured a squid wearing a glove on each of its arms, and the back read, "70 percent of the world is covered by water, the rest is covered by squid." Angels players have been wearing the shirts during batting practice to celebrate Velazquez, who has been one of the game’s best defenders at shortstop and a surprise contributor to the team.
Velazquez said he was honored to have his teammates wear the shirts, as that shows how quickly he has earned the respect of the clubhouse. He didn’t make the Opening Day roster but has emerged as the club’s everyday shortstop.
“It’s fun to see guys walking around wearing it,” Velazquez said. “It just gives you a boost of confidence from your peers. I can get that from family and friends, but to get that respect from my peers is the biggest thing.”
Velazquez’s teammates took it even further on Sunday, as it was “Squid Day” on their travel day to New York. They tried to imitate Velazquez’s fashion style that often features baggy clothing and oversized jerseys.
Velazquez, who described his style as street wear, enjoyed outfits worn by Matt Duffy and Michael Lorenzen.
“Some of the guys went over the top, which I liked,” Velazquez said. “But Duffy killed it. Lorenzen, too. Everybody participated and showed out. I think it was fun and necessary, too, especially after that last series. We had to do something new to go into the series fresh.”
The return to New York was also a major deal for Velazquez, who grew up in the Bronx and played in 28 games with the Yankees last year. The Yankees, though, decided to move on from Velazquez in the offseason, and the Angels claimed him on Nov. 5.
It has been an underrated move for the Angels. Velazquez is ranked as the second-best infielder in the Majors, according to Statcast's outs above average. He also ranks second in the American League in defensive runs saved, behind only Baltimore's Jorge Mateo. He entered Tuesday batting .202 in 41 games but has hit .262 over his last 18 games.
“He’s been the best shortstop in the American League [defensively],” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I saw him last year, but I didn’t get to see him enough. Wow. We would not be where we are without him. Just ask his teammates or the pitchers. He’s that good. And there’s a lot more in that bat than he’s shown to this point, although he’s been on a pretty good run the last three weeks.”