Rojas shows off arm, doubles twice in loss

Rookie plays right field for only the sixth time in the Majors

May 22nd, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Rookie did a little bit of everything against the A's on Friday night, as the right fielder recorded two outfield assists and doubled twice in a 8-4 loss at Angel Stadium.

His defensive play was even more impressive, considering that Rojas is a natural infielder and had played only two career games in right field in the Minors before playing it for the sixth time in the Majors on Friday. But the Anaheim native showed off his strong arm on two key defensive plays to get runners out at home plate.

"How about it?" Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "I put him in right because it's smaller than left field and [Taylor] Ward is a bit faster. So I put him on the other side and he gets all the action and really rises to the occasion. Great performance on his part. He keeps growing as a Major League player. The fact he's become able at a variety of positions makes him even more interesting to me."

Rojas, though, took his big night in stride, saying it would’ve been much better with a win and that his work defensively comes from preparation.

"I'm just covering my ground to the best of my ability out there,” Rojas said. “And it was able to work out. I'm comfortable out there. We get our work done before batting practice on a daily basis so it's just about repetition."

In the third, Chad Pinder ripped a double to right-center, but Rojas played it perfectly and got it in quickly to second baseman David Fletcher to start a relay. Fletcher fired a perfect strike to get Matt Olson at the plate to end the inning. It was the first career outfield assist for Rojas and helped lefty José Quintana escape a jam.

"Amazing," said Quintana, who gave up three runs over 5 1/3 innings. "That was a really good play. And as a pitcher, it can help you get more conviction and keep it going because the guys are out there for you and you want to keep competing for them."

His second outfield assist was even more impressive, as he nailed Mark Canha at the plate on a great throw from right field as he tried to score from second on a single from Ramón Laureano. It was the second out of the inning and helped atone for Canha reaching second on a throwing error from shortstop José Iglesias.

"If you watch [Rojas when he plays] third base, you can see the ball go across the diamond with good carry," Maddon said. "So when he picked it up, I thought it was in his range and he made a perfect throw. And give [Drew] Butera credit for two good tags on those throws."

Offensively, Rojas went 2-for-4 and recorded a pair of doubles that featured a bit of good fortune. His first double was a fly ball to right-center field that Laureano lost in the lights and dropped right in front of him. But Rojas was stranded at second after Juan Lagares flied out to center.

His second double came as part of a three-run rally to take the lead in the sixth, keyed by a solo homer from Jared Walsh and Taylor Ward’s hustle on an infield single with two outs on a routine grounder to second. Rojas followed with a double that squibbed down the left-field line and had an exit velocity of 56.6 mph. It helped set up a key two-run triple from Lagares to give the Angels the lead.

"He's going to hit, I mean whatever that number says it's going to rise,” Maddon said of Rojas, who is hitting .194/.250/.376 through his first 100 career plate appearances. “This guy is that good. Bully for him. He's going to keep getting better. He's a great addition. And those were big plays. We did a lot of good things tonight. It's a tough loss because we did a lot of things well, but didn't come out on the right side."

As Maddon noted, the lead, however, was short-lived despite Rojas’ outfield assist in the seventh. Olson followed with a walk and Pinder homered on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Mike Mayers for a three-run shot to give Oakland a 6-4 advantage. The A’s added two more homers in the ninth off closer Raisel Iglesias to hand the Angels the disappointing loss after their late lead.

"Obviously, it's tough," Rojas said. "It wasn't the outcome that we wanted. But little by little we have to keep fighting and things will take care of themselves."