Cron replaces Ibanez at DH; will it continue?

Raul Ibanez, Yan GomesC.J. Cron was slated to bat cleanup for Monday’s series opener against the Yankees, which says a lot about how well the power-hitting prospect has fared against Major League pitching early on – but may say even more about Raul Ibanez’s struggles in general.

The left-handed-hitting Ibanez sat against an opposing right-hander – in this case David Phelps – for just the fourth time all year, due in large part to a .144/.222/.289 slash line through his first 27 games. If that continues, the 24-year-old Cron – with five hits in his first nine Major League at-bats heading into Monday – could take away a lot more of Ibanez’s at-bats at designated hitter.

But Angels manager Mike Scioscia downplayed that notion pregame.

“Raul’s going to play,” he said. “We need him to find his way and hit. But on occasional days, we’re going to mix and match a little bit. We’ll let Raul exhale a little bit and relax and get back in there. C.J. is obviously swinging the bat well. We’re going to try to find room in our lineup for guys that are swinging the bat well, and right now he is.”

Ibanez, 41, is hitless in his last four starts and has already struck out 30 times, with a strikeout percentage of 30.3 that’s on pace to easily top his career high (25.8 percent, set last year). But Ibanez has never been all that good in April – his .756 career OPS in April is his lowest of any month – and Scioscia said he’s fine physically.

He’s just searching for some timing.

“He’s trying to find his rhythm in the box,” Scioscia said. “Sometimes he’s a little up front, sometimes he’s a little behind, sometimes he’s swinging at some pitches that are a little bit out of the zone. There’s probably a lot of factors to look at why he’s struggling, and all that being said, his production numbers are still good. The number of guys he’s driven in [17] is what you’re looking for. He’s hit some key home runs for us. It’s definitely in there. He’ll find it.”

Yankees (16-14)

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Brian McCann, C
Alfonso Soriano, DH
Kelly Johnson, 3B
Brian Roberts, 2B
Ichiro Suzuki, RF

SP: RH David Phelps (0-0, 3.86 ERA)

Angels (15-15)

Erick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Cron, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Ian Stewart, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Grant Green, LF
Collin Cowgill, RF

SP: RH Jered Weaver (2-2, 4.00 ERA)

Alden

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