Notes: Fletcher on upswing at plate; Ohtani

May 2nd, 2021

Second baseman was rewarded with a five-year contract extension worth $26 million on Opening Day, but he was off to a slow start offensively. He’s been showing signs of improvement in recent weeks.

Fletcher entered the season as a career .292/.346/.386 hitter in three seasons, but he entered Saturday batting .264/.282/.283 in 24 games this year. But after hitting .194 through his first eight games, he's been batting .300 over his last 16 games.

“I think my timing has gotten better at the plate,” Fletcher said Saturday. “I got off to a little bit of a slow start but the results are going to come. For me, it’s just about feeling good at the plate and getting on for the guys at the plate behind me.”

Fletcher, 26, added he never worried about his early season slump and knew he had the contact skills to break out of it.

“It wasn’t really tough, we’re only about a month into the season,” Fletcher said. “It was really only the first week or so of the season that I was kind of struggling a little bit. But that’s just part of the game.”

Angels manager Joe Maddon said he wasn’t worried about Fletcher but did note that he’s seen pitchers attack him a bit differently this season. Pitchers are attacking the zone more against Fletcher, forcing him to put the ball in play and not giving him any easy walks.

He’d like to see Fletcher pull the ball more with authority, as it’s something that’s been missing from Fletcher’s game. He’s still dropping in his singles to right but has yet to homer this season and hasn’t been pulling the ball as much as he did in recent years.

“A lot of fly balls to the middle of the field gets him in trouble and that’s the last place he wants to make an out,” Maddon said. “The ability to pull the ball hard has been the one part of his game that has been absent offensively. But I think he does a lot of good work there and it sets up a lot of things for him. For some guys, it’s hitting the ball in the opposite-field gap. But for him, I think hard pull sets him up. Last year, he hit one hard but foul. But I liked it.”

Lagares needs more work

Maddon explained why the Angels decided to activate right fielder Juan Lagares from the injured list on Friday, only to option him to their alternate site in Tempe, Ariz. The Angels wanted to get Lagares regular at-bats because of his stint on the injured list before he returns to the Majors.

“We want him to play before we actually use him here,” Maddon said. “He’s been out for a long time. He just needs at-bats. It’s hard to imagine just throwing him out there and expecting a good result. He was fine with it.”

Ohtani to DH on Sunday

Two-way star Shohei Ohtani is scheduled to make his fourth start of the season on the mound on Monday against the Rays and Maddon said he expects Ohtani to be in the lineup as the DH on Sunday. But it’s still unclear whether Ohtani will be in the lineup on Monday as well. He’s been in the lineup for two of his three starts.