Angels hope for better double-play duo in '16

Simmons, Giavotella look to increase efficiency in middle of infield

Angels hope for better double-play duo in '16

TEMPE, Ariz. -- One overlooked aspect of the Angels' 2015 season is that they weren't very good at turning double plays.

"It was bad," Angels infield coach Alfredo Griffin said. "Really bad."

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The Angels turned only 108 double plays last year, the fewest in the Major Leagues. A big reason for that was a flyball-heavy staff that yielded the lowest groundball percentage in the game. But execution was also an issue.

"We didn't finish them," Griffin said, "and that's very important. Finishing innings is really important, especially for our pitchers."

The Angels have a new shortstop now, in Andrelton Simmons, that is widely regarded as the best defender at his position in the game. Their new second baseman, Johnny Giavotella, was considered one of the worst defensively at his position last year.

The two have spent the entirety of Spring Training trying to feel each other out on double-play situations.

Giavotella has had to change his entire perspective. The 28-year-old has never played alongside a shortstop who went from fielding a baseball to getting rid of it so quickly. With Simmons, baseballs tend to shoot out from whatever position he catches them. There is no pause, no windup.

"No matter where the groundball is, he's able to throw it from that same arm slot," Giavotella said. "If he catches it down, he's able to throw it from any arm angle, which separates him from a lot of other shortstops, just because it's that much quicker."

Giavotella typically likes to reach across the bag for feeds, which gives him a little more momentum on his throws to first base. But Simmons has been working on feeding him either directly on top the second base or slightly behind it, largely because of new rules that basically eliminate the neighborhood out on double plays.

"We're getting there," Simmons said. "We're working on a few things."

Simmons, 26, has gone out of his way to guide Giavotella, helping him get rid of the ball quicker and familiarizing himself with where Giavotella feels most comfortable receiving throws.

"It's going well," Griffin said. "Simmons has helped [Giavotella] a lot, because he's open to helping him. That's important. He's not afraid of being in charge of the infield, of being the leader on defense. That's important. He assumes that responsibility."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.