LOS ANGELES -- Andrew Toles' second chance has come complete with an up-close look at the major leagues.
Released by the Tampa Bay Rays before the start of the 2015 season, the former top prospect did not play at all last year. He was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to this season and essentially in three months the left-handed hitter has rocketed from Single-A Rancho Cucamonga to Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City before he got the call to join the Dodgers on Friday.
The speedy Toles was immediately inserted into the starting lineup, playing center field and batting eighth against the San Diego Padres. It is his first call up to the major leagues after being drafted by the Rays in the third round in 2012.
Toles’ release from the Rays was reportedly for disciplinary reasons. He also was reportedly disciplined while playing at both the University of Tennessee and Chipola Junior College in Florida.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman knew Toles well from his days in the Rays’ front office. His offer of a second chance has been embraced so far as the Georgia native has delivered a combined .330 batting average and .375 on-base percentage at his three minor league stops this season. He has six home runs, with 23 steals.
“There is a little more pressure not to mess it up, basically,” Toles said when asked about his second chance. “But besides that I’m just going to play baseball.”
The Dodgers played Thursday night’s game with just three players on the bench, so a position player was needed, especially one who could play the outfield. To make room on the roster, right-hander Carlos Frias was optioned back to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
“He was on the radar because he can really hit and he’s an intriguing player,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s performed. Looking at our roster with Joc [Pederson] being down and just having a guy hitting right-handed pitching, playing the outfield and when he’s not in there having an opportunity to get a pinch hit.”
Roberts sounded keen on giving Toles a clean slate.
“For me, I don’t know the whole story, but I know that [Friedman] is fond of him as a person, as a player,” Roberts said. “With what he went through in the past, it’s a great story to see him here in the big leagues. I know that we’re excited to have him. He’s dynamic. He can run, he can defend, he can hit, so it will be fun to throw him out there and see what he can do.”
From the sound of it, Toles will be running on adrenaline after getting to Los Angeles on little sleep.
“Yeah, man, I’m pretty tired,” he said. “I had a long flight. I had to get up at 8 o’clock in the morning or 6 or something like that. I’m pretty surprised to see that [spot in the starting lineup].”