'Dude's sick': Simmons' defense dazzles again

April 24th, 2016

ANAHEIM -- Andrelton Simmons had already made a handful of highlight-reel plays in the first two weeks of his first season with the Angels, ranging 115 feet to catch a foul popup in Oakland on April 12 and converting a slick backhand play on Adam Eaton's grounder in Chicago on April 19.

But some of his new teammates began to wonder lately: "When is he going to pull out the sick one?"

"The sick one" constitutes ranging in the hole, making a backhand play and, in one motion, transferring the ball to his right hand, throwing off one foot and firing a bullet to first. It's the play Derek Jeter popularized and one Simmons makes even better.

And, at last, it finally came, in the eighth inning of Saturday night's 4-2 win that the Angels, at the time, led by only a single run.

Mariners speedster Norichika Aoki began the inning with a soft groundball to the left side. Simmons sprinted over and finally made the play his teammates were waiting for. The ball went from his glove to his hand in .50 seconds and his throw covered a distance of 131 feet, nailing Aoki even though he ran at a top speed of 19.9 mph, according to Statcast™.

After the game, setup man Joe Smith told Simmons: "That changed the whole inning."

"I thought it was a hit, man," Smith said. "That's a hit on maybe 28 other teams. That dude's sick."

And it was only the second highlight-reel play Simmons made.

The first came in the very first inning, with a runner on third and two outs, when Simmons ranged well into left-center field to make an over-the-shoulder catch on Nelson Cruz's fly ball, Willie Mays-style.

"I didn't think it was going to be a hit, but then watching it play out, I was like, 'Man, this might fall,'" Angels starter Hector Santiago said. "Then he makes that awesome play."

Simmons practices that backhand, off-balance throw all the time.

"I mess around just in case, and today the 'in case' came," Simmons said. "Normally it doesn't come out that good."

Simmons -- a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who's widely considered the best defensive shortstop in the game -- normally likes to set his feet on plays like that, but knows he can't when quicker runners are involved. He's made that play frequently, sometimes from shallow left field. And he makes it better than basically anybody, because nobody can match his combination of transfer speed and arm strength.

"Just practice," Simmons said. "A couple reps. A couple reps and some luck."