Angels infielder David Fletcher, out since April 12 because of a left-hip strain, did an extensive workout before Thursday’s series finale against the Cleveland Guardians at Angel Stadium, hitting, fielding and running, and he declared himself ready to return for a seven-game road trip to Chicago and Boston.
“I think, tentatively,” Fletcher said, when asked if the plan was for him to be activated for Friday night’s game against the White Sox. “I feel pretty good.”
To which the Angels essentially said: Not so fast.
There was some concern that Fletcher was not running at full strength while hitting .177 (three for 17) during a four-game rehab stint for triple-A Salt Lake, and manager Joe Maddon said before Thursday’s game that a determination on Fletcher’s status has not been made.
“I’m sure he can swing the bat well, he’s going to field ground balls well, he’s going to throw well, but how does he actually feel?” Maddon said. “We’ll make that evaluation in Chicago.”
Fletcher spent most of the 2019 season, when he had a .350 on-base percentage, and 2020, when he had a .376 OBP, in the leadoff spot. But he struggled to start 2021, was dropped to the bottom of the order last May and finished with a .297 OBP.
Fletcher opened this season at shortstop and was one for 13 (.077) with no walks in five games before going on the injured list. Andrew Velazquez has played so well defensively in Fletcher’s absence that Maddon said he would remain at shortstop and Fletcher would play mostly second base when he returns.
Middle infielders Tyler Wade, Matt Duffy and Jack Mayfield have also played well, which prompted this question before Thursday’s game: Is it possible Fletcher is no longer one of the organization’s best 28 players right now, and could that be delaying his activation?
“That’s not the issue at all,” Maddon said. “The issue is to make sure that he’s healthy and well and doesn’t have any setbacks during the year. He’s so valuable, he’s so good … we have similar guys now who are very good players, so to push him right now and reinjure himself would not be very smart.”