Fletcher to man short; no reins on Thor

March 29th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Angels manager Joe Maddon had hinted at it. But he confirmed on Tuesday that David Fletcher will be Los Angeles' Opening Day shortstop, moving there after he played almost exclusively at second base in 2021.

Maddon believes Fletcher is the best defensive second baseman in the Majors, but he said he also views him as a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. The Angels appear likely to platoon and Tyler Wade at second base depending on matchups, as both Duffy and Wade will also be on the Opening Day roster.

"[Fletcher will] be the Opening Day shortstop," Maddon said. "The thing about Fletch, among all the other players I've ever had, he really doesn't care [where he plays]. It's like, 'David, we're going to do this.' And he's like, 'OK, good.' It's never more complicated than that."

Fletcher, though, won’t be used as a prototypical shortstop, as the Angels plan to shift him based on the hitter. That has already been evident during Spring Training, as Fletcher remains at shortstop when right-handers are at the plate but shifts over to second base with lefties up. Maddon compared it to what the Padres do with third baseman Manny Machado, who often plays in shallow right field during infield shifts with left-handers at the plate.

“Part of it is arm strength and range and those kinds of factors, but for me, it’s not just about arm strength, it’s about making accurate throws from all kinds of different angles,” Maddon said. “Watch Machado. He’ll be extended beyond the bag, stops and doesn’t even look, and the ball will be right on the money. It’s the same thing with David. And another factor is fielding the ball off the grass. But he’s just made for that rover position.”

Syndergaard not facing any restrictions
Right-hander met with Maddon on Tuesday to discuss how he’ll be utilized this season after throwing just two innings for the Mets in 2021, his first game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March '20. But the Angels have decided to make Syndergaard a normal part of the six-man rotation, much as they did with two-way star Shohei Ohtani last year. Ohtani threw just 1 2/3 innings in his return from Tommy John surgery in '20, but he bounced back to make 23 starts in '21 and post a 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts over 130 1/3 innings.

“There’s no plan [for Syndergaard],” Maddon said. “It’s no different than last year with Shohei. I just wanted to talk with him. He’s real sharp. I wanted to get to know him better. I think he knows how to combine life and work, which is a good thing. And he’s excited to be here, which I love. Beyond that, the plan is there is no plan, just like with Shohei. He’s eager to get out there and doesn’t want any restrictions, either.”

Suarez pleased with outing, backed by three homers
Lefty , who is lined up to be the Angels' No. 4 starter, allowed one run on four hits over four innings in Los Angeles' 8-2 win over the Rockies on Tuesday. Suarez, who threw 52 pitches, didn’t walk a batter and lowered his ERA to 1.42 in 6 1/3 innings this spring.

“I felt really confident going after the strike zone,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “I was working on my slider, and it was working really effectively.”

Suarez was backed by a three-run homer from Justin Upton and a two-run shot from Kurt Suzuki in the fourth inning, as well as a two-run shot from Ohtani in the fifth and a solo shot from Jose Rojas in the eighth. Those were the first homers of the spring for Upton and Suzuki, while it was the second for Ohtani and Rojas.

Angels to air on Apple TV+ on April 8, May 27 and June 10
Three Angels games will air exclusively on Apple TV+ in the first half of the season, MLB and Apple announced Tuesday. The games will be against the Astros on April 8, the Blue Jays on May 27 and the Mets on June 10. The games will be free to watch and won’t require a subscription to Apple TV+.

Angels to debut City Connect uniform
The Angels are one of seven clubs participating in the Nike MLB City Connect uniform program this year. The club's jersey will debut on the field on June 11 against the Mets. Details for the Halos' uniform have yet to be released.