The Atlanta Braves rookie shortstop drew some attention in his first month with the team, hitting .296 in 33 games before breaking a bone in his right hand diving into second base. Ever since that happened July 8, he has been itching to get back into the Braves lineup, and his most recent stop on the way was a rehab stint with the Class-A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats.
"You want to be out there every day, so that injury definitely hurt me a bit," Simmons said. "I guess you have to make the best of it and learn from whatever you can. You get more time to watch and listen, so I took advantage of that. I picked up a lot of stuff."
Relatively recent acquisition Paul Janish has been filling in for the Braves dynamic shortstop ever since his trip to the disabled list, but it shouldn't be long before he is back to Turner Field for good. Right now there is nobody that wants that chance more than Simmons.
"Not being able to help the team and not being out there contributing has been the hardest part," Simmons said. "Sometimes if the team is doing well, it feels okay and I can just wait it out, but if the team's not winning or they're struggling, you feel like you have to be out there helping them out. That's my biggest thing."
One team he did get to help out on his Sept. 6 rehab assignment was the Hillcats, filling the designated hitter role in order to protect his throwing hand. Simmons got on base twice and was 1-for-4 on the night with a single, a walk and a run scored in the Hillcats loss.
Probably the most encouraging sign of the night was Simmons' aggressiveness on the base paths, especially since he injured himself running the bases in July. He showed that he hadn't lost a step during his absence by easily swiping second base, this time sliding feet-first.
"I get to see the coaching staff again and a lot of the guys that I played with before," Simmons said of his time in Lynchburg. "That's pretty exciting, and I'm trying to help them out in the playoffs. They've been doing pretty good though."
As much as Andrelton Simmons' would like to stay in Lynchburg for more than a day or two, he knows his work as a Major League player is not done yet.
"I'm really excited," Simmons said. "I want to be out there right now, but I want to be in my top form when I get back. I want to be able to help the team, not hurt them."
Pitch selection is always a tough skill for young players to master, and Simmons feels that he has done a good job up to this point, as well as driving the ball more consistently, but one of the things that he will focus on when he returns to the Braves is having the right mentality in pressure situations.
"I want to be more clutch when the game is on the line," Simmons said. "I want to be the go-to guy. I want the team to count on me and be happy that I'm the guy at the plate or the guy that the ground ball was hit to. I want my team to believe in me."
Those are lofty goals for a player with just 33 games under his belt, but his ability to do it is evident. After all, he has already shown he can adjust to different levels of competition, and he can already tell the difference between a Major League pitcher and a minor league one.
"The guys are more polished in the Major Leagues," Simmons said. "Maybe the guy on the mound has a good slider, but he will throw you two good ones and two bad ones.
"The big league guy will throw three of them exactly where he wants and one close to where he wants it. Everybody is more disciplined up there too. They have a game plan, and they know what they're trying to do."
Now that he knows exactly what to expect from Major league competition, Simmons can look back on why he was called up to Atlanta in the first place.
"I was kind of expecting it, but I stopped worrying about it. I started just working on stuff, trying to get better. When I least expected it is when I got the call."
He will be prepared when he gets the call again, but for now, priority number one is to get healthy. When he does, it will be hard for Fredi Gonzalez to keep him out of the lineup.
Simmons Itching To Get Back
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