Kirk Nieuwenhuis made a grand entrance into the Angels lineup on Friday.
Starting for the first time since he was traded from the Mets earlier this week, Nieuwenhuis doubled in his first at-bat.
But the 27-year-old outfielder, who played college baseball in Southern California at Azusa Pacific, really made his presence felt in the outfield.
Nieuwenhuis, who made his first start with the Angels in left field, caught a ball at the wall in left-center field. League MVP Mike Trout is known for his long range covering the outfield, and by his own admission, Nieuwenhuis said he called him off late.
It was an adventure, but Nieuwenhuis made the catch at the wall to rob J.D. Martinez of a hit in the seventh inning, and that squelched a comeback by the Tigers. That catch helped preserve a 2-0 Angels win over the Tigers.
"I couldn’t really take my eye off it. I kind of got a little lucky with where the fence is. I called it pretty late too," Nieuwenhuis said. "… I heard (Trout) was aggressive and I called it pretty late, so I’m glad he let me take it."
And the Angels are surely thankful there was no collision in the outfield.
"He’s a good outfielder," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He’s still getting used to the dimensions of our field and it looked like he cruised back and might have bumped into the wall a little earlier than he thought he was. He made the catch. I think as he gets acclimated with Mike’s range and our park out here, he’ll be really important to us on the defensive side. He has a lot of range out there."
Angels starter Hector Santiago, who hurled a 3-hit scoreless gem over 7 1/3 innings, sure appreciated the catch and tipped his cap to Nieuwenhuis. And all was fine on Trout’s end.
"It was good. He was calling it," Trout said. "Off the bat, I thought it was a homer. It’s tough to hit the ball out. The ball was so high. That was a big play in the game for us. I’m happy for him … It’s just experience out there playing in this stadium. He hasn’t been out there. First time out there. It was a great play for us and a big catch in the game."
Nieuwenhuis — who was the fourth outfielder for the Mets — was designated for assignment recently and then traded to the Angels, but there was a 10-day stretch where he worked out but didn’t see any live pitching.
He said he was glad to get the first hit out of the way, that double to center in his first at-bat of the game, and then he struck out in his next two at-bats. And then there was that big catch.
"Phenomenal," Santiago said. "We’ve got Trout out there and now we’ve got Nieuwenhuis out there running into walls. That’s a great play. That saved the game and kept us with a 2-0 lead. Who knows if that hits off his glove and goes over, tie game. But great play by him."