CLEVELAND — Just when Andrew Velazquez might have been on to something that would change his career, his season came to a sudden end.
The Angels’ shortstop tore the meniscus in his right knee Tuesday night, which will lead to season-ending surgery. The rehab is expected to be six to eight weeks, so he’ll be ready to go for spring training.
“Not closing out the season healthy is frustrating,” Velazquez said Wednesday morning. “It’s something to work on. I have a full offseason of preparation. I’ll take this season into account and know what I’ve got to work on.”
The last couple weeks provided a potential breakthrough for the glaring hole in his game. A switch-hitter for his entire career, Velazquez began experimenting with hitting right-handed exclusively. He had five hits in his first 12 at-bats, with a homer, hitting right-handed against right-handed pitchers.
A switch-hitter almost never sees a breaking ball going away from him, so that was the adjustment for Velazquez. He said Monday that he had been working on that against a pitching machine, and it wasn’t as uncomfortable as he expected it to be.
The Angels encouraged Velazquez to try it because he’d struggled at the plate for his entire big-league career. He has a career .192 average with a .535 OPS. Velazquez’s defense and speed are both well above average, but he needed to do something more at the plate to make him a viable everyday player.
Velazquez said he’s open to hitting right-handed exclusively next season. Manager Phil Nevin said he felt Velazquez would benefit from not having to spend so much time maintaining two swings.
“I think eliminating a lot of the stuff he has to do before games, preparation-wise and tinkering with both sides, I really think it’s gonna help him,” Nevi said. “I was anxious to see the last few weeks of it.”
The chance for that ended in an MRI tube late Tuesday night. Velazquez said he felt something pop during the fourth inning. He’s not sure if the initial injury occurred on an attempt at a diving stop earlier in the inning, or when he was trying to beat out an infield hit earlier in the game.
After the pop, he walked off the field gingerly and was unable to come to the plate. He’ll be scheduled for surgery. The relatively routine procedure should not impact next season.
“There’s a lot worse knee injuries,” Velazquez said. “That’s the most simple one.”
The Angels recalled infielder Michael Stefanic to take Velazquez’s roster spot, but Stefanic was not scheduled to arrive in Cleveland until just before the start of Wednesday’s game.
Stefanic hit .167 with a .461 OPS in his first stint with the Angels, including an 0-for-24 slump before he was sent down. Stefanic hit .303 with a .909 OPS in the 31 Triple-A games since his big-league stint.
“He’s been swinging the bat well,” Nevin said. “Good reports on him. A lot of times your second time around here you’re a little more comfortable. You understand what it’s like. It’s not going to be walking into something that’s foreign to him today when he arrives. Those things make a difference. You see a lot of guys get called up, don’t do well, go back down, come back and are better.”
David Fletcher started at shortstop Wednesday afternoon. He is still dealing with a bruised right hand from being hit by a pitch Saturday. He bunted in both of his plate appearances after Velazquez left Tuesday’s game. “It would have been nice to give him another day, but it’s nothing that he can hurt himself further,” Nevin said. “It’s a bruise that needs to subside. It’s not going to make it worse.” …
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Outfielder Jo Adell was not in the lineup for the fourth time in six games since Mickey Moniak returned from the injured list. Moniak, a left-handed hitter, has started against all the righties, and Adell has played against the lefties. The Angels are facing two righties and two lefties, alternating days, in the upcoming four-game series against the Seattle Mariners. …
The Angels do not have left-hander Tucker Davidson scheduled to start against the Mariners. His turn would have been Sunday if they kept the pitchers in order. Instead, the Angels will go with Michael Lorenzen, Shohei Ohtani, Reid Detmers and José Suarez. Davidson has a 7.24 ERA in six starts with the Angels.
Angels (RHP Michael Lorenzen, 6-6, 4.70) vs. Mariners (LHP Robbie Ray, 12-9, 3.56), 6:38 p.m. Friday, Bally Sports West, 830 AM