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Joe Maddon on Angels' David Fletcher: 'It was love at first double'

Maria Torres, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The first time Joe Maddon saw the Angels' emerging fan favorite play was 15 months ago in Chicago.

David Fletcher was making his Wrigley Field debut on a blustery afternoon. It was his only 93rd appearance in the majors, but he was already a star in the eyes of Angels followers.

Maddon, then manager of the Chicago Cubs, had never heard of Fletcher. The utility player hadn't distinguished himself nationally yet.

In his second at-bat, Fletcher ripped a 3-1 fastball thrown on the outer third of the plate by veteran left-hander Cole Hamels into the ivy-covered wall in left field. The ball ricocheted. As it was chased down, Fletcher dug for second base. He arrived without a slide.

Surprised, Maddon asked a coach on his bench whether Fletcher was a top prospect. Was he "one of their guys"?

He became enamored.

 

"Honestly," Maddon said in a video conference Friday, "it was love at first double."

By the time the Angels hired him, Maddon had caught numerous glimpses of Fletcher on television and come to an easy conclusion: "Fletch has got to be on the baseball field."

The Angels' roster configuration might complicate including Fletcher in the daily lineup. The left side of the infield will feature free agent acquisition Anthony Rendon at third and four-time Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons at short. Aging veteran Albert Pujols likely will man first base too often to permit Maddon to slide All-Star second baseman Tommy La Stella to that corner. In the outfield, where Fletcher logged 146 2/3 innings in left last season and one Cactus League appearance in center this spring, Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Brian Goodwin figure to receive the bulk of the playing time.

Maddon will have to employ some creativity to figure out the conundrum. His effort would be worthwhile. Fletcher hit .290 with 30 doubles, four triples and six homers in 154 games last season. His on-base percentage of .350 was the second-highest on the team, behind Trout.

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