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Michael Stefanic joins Angels and becomes their regular second baseman

HOUSTON — Back in spring training, Phil Nevin sidled up to Michael Stefanic and was chatting with him about the infielder’s background. Stefanic then proceeded to tell Nevin the whole story, how he had gone undrafted out of Westmont College and sent letters to all the teams to try to find a job.

“It’s going to be helluva story,” Nevin told him, “when I see you in the big leagues at some point this year.”

That point arrived on Sunday.

The Angels called up Stefanic, 26, and put him in the starting lineup at second base, a significant milestone for a player who has hit his way through the farm system while being overlooked by anyone evaluating raw tools.

Stefanic has hit .314 with an .818 OPS in the minors, including .320 with an .808 OPS this season at Triple-A. Last season he put himself firmly in line for a big league job by hitting .334 with a .913 OPS at Triple-A.

“I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time,” Stefanic said on his first morning in a big league clubhouse. “Really just excited to get here. I want to win ballgames. That’s what I’m about. That’s what I’ve always been about.”

Nevin, who was the third base coach when he first met Stefanic, is now the manager, and looking for anything to spark the team’s struggling bottom of the lineup.

In a span of two days, the Angels signed veteran infielder Jonathan Villar and they called up Stefanic. Nevin said Villar will play third and Stefanic will play second, with Luis Rengifo moving to short.

The moves displaced shortstop Andrew Velazquez, who will become a defensive replacement, and Tyler Wade, who was designated for assignment.

“Somebody has to take the fall on this one, and the decision was Tyler,” Nevin said. “It’s a tough one. I spent five years with him (including the previous four with the New York Yankees) and the conversation was difficult, but he gets it. He understands it. Took it like a man. I’m sure he’s gonna end up on his feet somewhere.”

Wade, 27, hit .218 with a .544 OPS in 67 games with the Angels, bouncing between second, third and shortstop. Wade has exceptional speed and at times played good defense, but he was never able to do enough with the bat to justify the playing time the Angels gave him in the wake of injuries to David Fletcher and Anthony Rendon.

“I felt like there was a lot of work left to be done here,” Wade said. “I care about a lot of these guys. I like everybody in this room. I like the group. I said this from Day One, this group is special, and I still believe that. So that’s what kind of kills me the most is I’m not going to be able to see it through.”

Nevin flipped Shohei Ohtani and Chase Silseth in the rotation order, so Ohtani will pitch on Wednesday in Miami and Silseth on Thursday in Baltimore.

Nevin said he was trying to avoid having Ohtani play a game in one city, arrive in the new city in the middle of the night, and then have to pitch the next day. They can send Silseth ahead so he can get a good night’s rest before pitching in Baltimore.

The Angels asked Ohtani to do that last month, when he played a night game at Dodger Stadium and then pitched the next night in Seattle, and Nevin didn’t want to do it again.

“I don’t want to abuse what I have with Sho,” Nevin said.

SUSPENSION UPDATE

Closer Raisel Iglesias had his suspension reduced from two games to one, and he served the penalty on Sunday in Houston.

That will conclude the three suspensions to active Angels players resulting from last weekend’s fight against the Seattle Mariners. Andrew Wantz served his three games during the week, and Ryan Tepera served a two-game suspension (reduced from three) on Friday and Saturday.

Rendon, who is out for the season after wrist surgery, also has a five-game suspension that he’ll need to serve when he’s healthy next season. That could also be reduced if he appeals.

Nevin’ 10-game suspension will be completed after Friday’s game in Baltimore.

UP NEXT

Angels (RHP Noah Syndergaard, 5-6, 3.86) at Marlins (RHP Sandy Alcantara, 8-3, 1.95), Tuesday, 3:40 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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