ANAHEIM ― Livan Soto called his parents at their home in Venezuela at 1:30 a.m. local time Saturday. He was crying, he said, but he bore good news: the Angels had purchased his contract from Double-A Rocket City in advance of that day’s game against the Seattle Mariners.
Soto, 22, was going to the big leagues for the first time.
“(My parents) started screaming, yelling,” Soto said through an interpreter. “They were very happy.”
The Angels needed a middle infielder after their starting shortstop (Andrew Velazquez) and second baseman (David Fletcher) suffered serious injuries in a four-day span. Velazquez was transferred to the 60-day injured list, and Fletcher went on the 10-day injured list, in corresponding roster moves Saturday.
Long considered a high-end defensive prospect, Soto went on an offensive tear in the last month, batting .320 with a .469 on-base percentage in his last 21 games for the Trash Pandas.
A lefty-hitting, righty-throwing infielder, Soto was on the bench for Saturday’s game. Interim manager Phil Nevin said Soto could get his first start Sunday against Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales, who has been somewhat tougher on right-handed hitters this season.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to see him play much, except on video,” Nevin said of Soto. “But when I get in my office and a kid is that excited to be here, it’s pretty special for the whole room. He’s glowing, he’s on Cloud 9 as most guys are when they get called up to the big leagues. Those are special things to see.”
Soto was one of 13 players who were declared free agents in 2017 after agreeing to terms with the Atlanta Braves. Soto had already played 47 games professionally in the Braves’ organization when Atlanta was found to have violated Major League Baseball regulations concerning bonus payments to international amateurs. Angels general manager Billy Eppler then signed Soto and another ex-Brave, Kevin Maitan, to minor league contracts.
Soto rose the ranks steadily and hit .225 in a 12-game exposure to Double-A in 2021. This season, he improved his batting average to .281 while reaching base at an impressive .379 clip.
“A year ago, I learned the season is long,” Soto said through an interpreter. “So I prepared myself better, I focused better, I took at-bats very focused on every one. That’s how everything started.”
The decision to place Fletcher on the injured list was only made after he failed to respond to treatment well enough to swing a bat normally, Angels head athletic trainer Mike Frostad said.
Fletcher could still play the field after being hit on his left hand last Saturday by a Jose Urquidy pitch. But he could not grip the bat well, and attempted to bunt his way on base in subsequent plate appearances. He was successful once.
Velazquez had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee Friday and began his rehab Saturday, Frostad said.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon is making progress in his return from a wrist injury while taking ground balls during batting practice. Frostad said if Rendon is able to play before the end of the regular season, it would be “a bonus.”
“He’s going to keep taking ground balls during batting practice, just going along with the schedule we have put out for him,” Frostad said. “The goal is for him to have a normal off-season.”
Seattle (LHP Marco Gonzales, 10-13, 3.89 ERA) at Angels (LHP Reid Detmers, 5-5, 3.82 ERA), Sunday, 1 p.m., Bally Sports West.