PEORIA, Ariz. -- Infield prospect David Fletcher's strong spring appears to have thrust him into the mix for the final bench spot with the Angels.Fletcher, who started at shortstop and went 0-for-3 in the Angels' 7-0 loss to the Mariners at Peoria Stadium on Saturday, has made an impression after
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Infield prospect David Fletcher's strong spring appears to have thrust him into the mix for the final bench spot with the Angels.
Fletcher, who started at shortstop and went 0-for-3 in the Angels' 7-0 loss to the Mariners at Peoria Stadium on Saturday, has made an impression after batting .350 (14-for-40) in 18 Cactus League games.
"He's worked his way onto our depth chart, from not only the way he played last summer, but what he showed this spring," manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's no doubt that David has put himself in the conversation."
A sixth-round Draft pick out of Loyola Marymount in 2015, Fletcher reached Triple-A Salt Lake last season after hitting .266 with a .655 OPS, three home runs, 39 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 111 games across two Minor League levels. He ranks as the Angels' No. 23 prospect by MLB Pipeline.
Two other infielders, Colin Walsh and Jose Fernandez, were among the Angels' most recent round of roster cuts, but the 23-year-old Fletcher remains in big league camp with less than two weeks to go until Opening Day.
Jefry Marte and Kaleb Cowart are the likely frontrunners to win the final bench spot, as the Angels might prefer to have Fletcher further his development by playing every day in the Minors. Nolan Fontana is another candidate, but he has not played since Feb. 27 due to right shoulder inflammation.
Middleton, Alvarez shine
Keynan Middleton struck out three over 1 2/3 scoreless innings against the Mariners on Saturday, trimming his spring ERA from 8.53 to 6.75. It was an encouraging performance for Middleton, who had given up runs in each of his three previous outings.
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"That's the best stuff he's had all spring," Scioscia said. "That's good to see. I liked his fastball command, I thought he was aggressive. He commanded counts much better, and his slider was sharper. All positives for Keynan."
Jose Alvarez, who has enjoyed the strongest spring of all the Angels' relievers, continued his impressive stretch by firing 1 1/3 scoreless innings. The 28-year-old left-hander now has a 1.08 ERA over 8 1/3 innings in seven Cactus League appearances.
"Jose Alvarez just keeps going," Scioscia said.
Noe Ramirez, who is a contender for the final bullpen spot, surrendered two runs on two hits, including a solo homer to Kyle Seager, in the seventh.
Thaiss sent down
The Angels optioned first-base prospect Matt Thaiss to Minor League camp along with Fernandez on Saturday. Thaiss, the Angels' first-round Draft pick in 2016, batted .259 (7-for-27) in 15 Cactus League games.
Happy St. Patrick's Day
Strength and conditioning coach Lee Fiocchi delighted the Angels by wearing a green suit adorned with shamrocks during Saturday morning's team stretch. The Angels also joined the rest of Major League Baseball in celebrating St. Patrick's Day by wearing green caps during their game against the Mariners.
Nick Tropeano, who has allowed three runs over 3 1/3 innings in two Cactus League appearances this spring, will start against the Rangers on Sunday in Surprise. Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani is also expected to bat in the game. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PT, and the game can be viewed live on MLB.TV.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.