Simmons returns to Halos ahead of schedule

Angels designate Ryan for assignment in corresponding move

Simmons returns to Halos ahead of schedule

ANAHEIM -- Bryce Harper underwent thumb surgery on April 29, 2014, and returned 62 days later. Jed Lowrie had thumb surgery on April 28, 2015, and came back in 93 days. Jhonny Peralta surgically repaired his thumb on March 10 and returned in 89 days.

Andrelton Simmons came back on his 36th day.

The Angels activated their slick-fielding shortstop for Wednesday's series finale against the Twins and instantly benefited, with Simmons making three splendid defensive plays -- a flip from his knees, a bullet to first base and an off-balance throw on a grounder to his right -- and reaching base three times.

Simmons' RBI single

"He's the best over there," Angels first baseman C.J. Cron said after the Angels' 10-2 win. "He already showed it."

Veteran shortstop Brendan Ryan was designated for assignment a second time in order to make room on the roster for Simmons.

It was a little more than five weeks ago that Simmons underwent surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament on his left thumb, a procedure that usually requires a person to be immobilized for a six-week period.

Simmons smiled wryly when asked how he returned so quickly.

"Technology, I guess," he said.

"We're all very comfortable in the fact that he's a hundred percent," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the game. "He got back earlier than some of the windows we were given, but he went through all the paces at Triple-A and he's ready."

Simmons played in six Minor League rehab games, the first two coming for Class A Advanced Inland Empire and the last four for Triple-A Salt Lake. He initially played defense with a splint in his surgically repaired thumb, and he'd feel a sharp pain if he caught a hard-hit ball in the wrong spot. But as time went on, discomfort began to erode.

It's good enough right now.

"It's not exactly like how the right hand feels," Simmons said. "It's not as strong, but it's still good enough to do everything."

Simmons is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner and is one of the game's best defensive players, no matter the position, with a 62.0 Ultimate Zone Rating since '13 that trails only right fielder Jason Heyward for the Major League lead.

Simmons -- acquired from the Braves in exchange for the Angels' two best prospects at the time, Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis -- initially hurt himself while sprawling for a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Rays third baseman Evan Longoria on May 8, but he resumed baseball activities a little more than two weeks later.

"The first couple of days, when I couldn't swing or catch ground balls, that was the toughest," said Simmons, batting .219/.246/.281 before going down. "But as soon as I actually started working, I started feeling better, because I would come to the field and actually work on something as opposed to just watching the whole time."

Gregorio Petit received the majority of the playing time at shortstop while Simmons was out and could occasionally spell Johnny Giavotella at second base now that Simmons is back.

Both are right-handed hitters, though, so it isn't a natural fit as a platoon. Petit is a better defender and has surprised with the bat, hitting .289/.340/.423 in 107 plate appearances entering Wednesday. Giavotella, a weaker defensive player with more upside offensively, is batting .274/.298/.396 in 208 plate appearances.

"I think Petit has played himself into more playing time, absolutely," said Scioscia, who nonetheless went with Giavotella on Wednesday. "At either spot, shortstop or second base, he's shown he can definitely play at a high level. He's going to be an option at times to play second base, no doubt."

Worth noting

• Sixteenth overall selection Matt Thaiss was on the field for pregame batting practice on Wednesday, one day after agreeing to a $2.15 million signing bonus. Thaiss, a catcher at the University of Virginia, said he will eventually play for the Orem Owlz, the Angels' short-season rookie affiliate, and will primarily work on first base this summer. He can also play the outfield.

C.J. Wilson will throw a light bullpen session on Thursday, his first time throwing off a mound since being shut down with recurring shoulder inflammation 19 days earlier. Wilson will join Cliff Pennington and Nick Tropeano, among others, in Arizona while the Angels are on the road this weekend. Temperatures are expected to exceed 110 degrees there on Saturday and Sunday.

• Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin recently returned from an injured hamstring, going 2-for-12 in three games for Class A Advanced Inland Empire. Baldoquin, a 22-year-old who was given an $8 million signing bonus in December 2014, is batting .167/.219/.200 in eight games this year, after batting .235/.266/.294 in 77 games last year. Baldoquin is splitting time between shortstop and second base this year.

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.