Daily Dose: Bossman Junior back on track

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B.J. Upton spent the first week of the season on the disabled list
following winter shoulder surgery and hit just .204 with two homers, 60
strikeouts, and a measly .587 OPS in 45 games through the end of May.
Everything changed for him once the calendar flipped to June and
Upton’s hot stretch continued Sunday as he tied career-highs with four
hits and four RBIs in a win over the Mets.

Upton is now hitting .330 with three homers, six doubles, 13 runs,
and 15 RBIs in 18 games this month while going 11-for-13 swiping bases.
He’s also struck out in 22 percent of his plate appearances after
whiffing 28 percent of the time through two months and as usual Upton
has drawn walks in bunches. He’s still sporting a sub-.700 OPS, but the
time to buy low is clearly disappearing in a hurry.

While the Rays score double-digit runs for the 11th time in 71 games
to increase their MLB-best total to 401, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* CC Sabathia was yanked from Sunday’s start against the Marlins in
the second inning with left biceps tendinitis. Sabathia wanted to
remain in the game and said afterward that he plans to make his
scheduled start Friday against the Mets, but manager Joe Girardi
expressed less optimism about his status. For now at least no MRI exam
is planned and he’s slated for a bullpen session Wednesday.

Sabathia has just 70 strikeouts in 102 innings after racking up 251
in 253 innings last season, but his fastball velocity is actually up
slightly compared to 2008 and prior to Sunday’s abbreviated start he
was 5-1 with a 2.92 ERA and 45/15 K/BB in his previous eight outings.
Phil Hughes would likely get the nod to replace him if needed, but
Sabathia will no doubt try to pitch through the injury if possible.

* Barry Zito had a season-high with eight strikeouts Sunday against
the Rangers, missing that many bats for just the fifth time in 79
starts with the Giants. Zito had 205 strikeouts during his first full
season in 2001 and averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings through the
age of 24, but has failed to reach 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings in
any of seven seasons since then.

However, after eight strikeouts in seven innings Sunday his
strikeout rate is up to 6.8/9 for his highest mark since 2004. Zito’s
average fastball was under 85 miles per hour in 2007 and 2008, but his
velocity has improved to a 86.5 mph this year and he’s again having
tons of success with his amazing curveball. Since two bad outings to
begin the season Zito has a 3.85 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 74 innings.

AL Quick Hits: Justin Morneau’s league-high streak of 319
straight games ended Sunday because of “general soreness” … David Ortiz
homered Sunday for the fifth time this month after going deep just once
through 46 games … Mike Lowell missed his second straight game Sunday
because of soreness in his surgically repaired hip … Kevin Millwood had
a season-high 10 strikeouts Sunday, but took a loss while allowing
three runs … Gil Meche came into Sunday with 16 straight scoreless
innings and a 3.31 ERA, but was rocked for nine runs … Mark Buehrle
tossed seven shutout innings Sunday, improving to 7-2 … Denard Span
(ear) is expected to come off the disabled list when eligible Thursday
… Evan Longoria broke out his June slump by going 4-for-5 with a pair
of doubles Sunday … Ricky Romero hurled his fourth straight Quality
Start on Sunday … Dallas Braden cut his ERA to 3.26 with seven innings
of two-run ball Sunday.

NL Quick Hits: Albert Pujols homered twice and drove in six runs
Sunday, giving him an MLB-leading 26 long balls and 68 RBIs … Ryan
Howard homered as a pinch-hitter Saturday, but returned to the hospital
Sunday and saw his MLB-high streak of 343 straight games snapped
because of the flu … Cole Hamels struck out 10 and allowed just two
runs in eight innings Sunday, but took a loss … After giving up 25 runs
in his previous five outings, Wandy Rodriguez allowed one run on two
hits over seven innings Sunday … General manager Dan O’Dowd denied
Saturday that Brad Hawpe is being shopped … Geovany Soto homered Sunday
for the fourth time in June after going deep just once through 40 games
… Khalil Greene homered Sunday for the third straight game, but left
with a bruised leg after being hit by a pitch … Troy Tulowitzki notched
his first three-hit game of the season Sunday and also added a walk.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”