Matt LaPorta out 4-6 months following hip surgery

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Things apparently aren’t going to be easy for Matt LaPorta in Cleveland.
Despite being one of the best hitting prospects in baseball and more or less MLB-ready at the age of 24, LaPorta began this season at Triple-A, played sparingly after being called up to Cleveland for the first time in May, and was sent back to the minors three weeks later when it became clear that manager Eric Wedge inexplicably had no use for him.
He remained in the minors until the Indians were completely out of contention, finally getting another shot in mid-August after batting his usual .299/.388/.530 with 42 extra-base hits in 93 games at Triple-A. The second time around Wedge at least gave him everyday playing time down the stretch and LaPorta batted .273 with six homers and 12 doubles in 139 at-bats.
Wedge was then fired as manager, making it all but certain that LaPorta would enter 2010 as a starter at either first base or an outfield corner. Except now he’s facing 4-6 months of recovery and rehabilitation after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery this morning and is no sure thing to be fully healthy by Opening Day, let alone the start of spring training.
If healthy there’s little doubt that LaPorta will be an impact hitter for the Indians, who acquired him from the Brewers as the centerpiece of the last year’s CC Sabathia trade. He’s hit .254/.308/.442 through 198 plate appearances in the majors after batting .291/.384/.557 in the minors, and the former first-round pick offers 30-homer power with strong plate discipline and a reasonable strikeout rate.
The good news is that he was probably destined to end up at first base long term anyway, so a slight decrease in speed or mobility following the surgery perhaps wouldn’t hurt him as much as some players. However, for a top prospect who’s been given something less than a clear path already and an Indians team in need of young players to step up in 2010, LaPorta going under the knife is a tough and unexpected break.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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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.”