ANAHEIM -- 36 days after thumb surgery - one that usually requires six-to-eight weeks to recover from - Andrelton Simmons was manning the six-hole at Angel Stadium.
"I was a little nervous going in, it's been awhile," said Simmons. "I've never missed so much time. It was exciting for me."
Thumb healed, 100%. Simmons, one of the game's best defensive shortstops, had returned after a week-long rehab in the minors, and was ready to help his team to a victory.
"We're all very comfortable in the fact that he's a hundred percent," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, prior to Wednesday's 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."
It took over four innings and 18 batters before a ball was hit to Simmons, and to no one's surprise, he did something jaw-dropping. Twins' center fielder, and top prospect, Byron Buxton, hit a screamer towards the hole at short, and Simmons went quick to his right side, fell, caught the ball on a hop back-handed, and fired quickly to second for a force out to preserve a run.
"It hit a little bit harder than I thought, and it kept running away from me," said Simmons. "I was trying to turn two, but I mean, we got one."
"I feel like I made it a harder play than it should have been. I misjudged it a little bit. I feel like I shoulda turned two."
The next play, another ball hit to the hole, and Simmons once again did not disappoint. Back-handed scoop, a leap and fired bullet to first base to end the inning to preserve any run from coming home. The play also kept Angels' starter, Hector Santiago, at pace to six-innings of one run baseball.
"He apologized to me for not making that double play, and I was like, 'I'm just happy you got one out,'" said Santiago on Simmons' first stop. "Simmons is unbelievable. He covers so much ground, he's a defensive wizard out there."
It took all of nine innings for Simmons to make his presence known on the diamond, and his teammates noticed the immediate spark.
"He's the best over there," said Angels' first baseman, C.J. Cron. "He already showed it with a couple plays over there."
On the offensive side of the game, Simmons contributed two hits, a walk and an RBI, in a 10-2 victory over Minnesota. The two hits raised Simmons' batting average 12 points from .219 to .231, and was his fourth multi-hit game of the year.
"Guys have been battling," said Simmons. "We gotta get some luck on our part, get some big hits. Sometimes you just need a little spark, a little luck, and it'll turn things around."