Back at shortstop, Simmons shows no rust

Back at shortstop, Simmons shows no rust

TEMPE, Ariz. -- For eight consecutive days, slick-fielding shortstop Andrelton Simmons sat on the bench while his new Angels teammates played defense. Mild-yet-continual pain in his throwing elbow kept Simmons from playing his position in actual games, so instead he studied everyone else.

He watched how deep the outfielders played and noted how much ground they could cover; where the second baseman, Johnny Giavotella, positioned himself and how he liked to receive throws when turning double plays.

"I was still pretty active," Simmons said. "I felt like I was in the game."

Simmons returned to shortstop for Tuesday's 6-5 win over the A's at Tempe Diablo Stadium. He hit his first spring homer, laid down a successful sacrifice bunt and got plenty of action on defense, making a leaping catch, starting two double plays and converting a couple of routine grounders into outs.

Simmons starts the double play

More significant to Simmons, though, was a shallow fly ball that fell beyond the reach of three players, or a slow roller up the middle that he and Giavotella both converged on before watching it sneak into the outfield for a base hit.

Said Simmons: "It's the little things, man."

The sore arm, he stresses, is also a little thing. A close play at first base didn't present itself on Tuesday, but if it does, Simmons is confident he can unleash his plus-plus arm in order to record an out. It was his only concern before, and now it's gone.

"Everybody gets a little sore, and mine lingered a little longer than usual," said Simmons, who made his previous four Cactus League starts at designated hitter and took part in most defensive drills over the past couple of weeks. "I just told them. I tried to be honest. I try to always start honest, then I start hiding my aches and my pains. I mean, I could've been out there. But they just tried to get me to 100 percent. I'm feeling pretty close to that right now."

Simmons has scrapped his standard toe-tap for a fluid leg kick -- for now, at least -- and he is starting to feel comfortable at the plate, notching nine hits in 21 at-bats over his past seven games. And he plans to play shortstop regularly now, with no doubts he'll be fully capable of handling his position when the games start counting.

Simmons' two-run homer

Simmons is still grasping his assignments against pull-happy left-handed hitters, a situation that leaves him at shortstop while the rest of the infield shifts to the right side.

He's learning how to feed Giavotella on double plays, finding a happy medium between throws out in front of the bag (Giavotella's preference) and throws on top of or behind the base (Simmons' preference).

He's figuring out how much ground Daniel Nava and Mike Trout cover, how much distance Kole Calhoun gets on throws from the right-field corner.

To Simmons, on a new team after spending his entire big league career with the Braves, those are the things that matter right now.

"I've been talking a lot to some of the guys about some stuff," Simmons said. "I feel like I didn't miss a beat."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.