Results tagged ‘ Efren Navarro ’

The midway point …

Rangers Angels Spring BaseballWe’ve reached the midway point of the Angels’ Cactus League schedule. Whether that came fast or slow is merely a matter of your own perspective. But we’re here. 14 down, 14 to go, with an off day (sort of) conveniently placed in the middle and the three-game, exhibition Freeway Series following the Angels’ stint in Arizona.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far …

Second base really is wide open: And I’m not really sure if that’s good. Thing is, none of the three candidates for the everyday role have really stuck out. Grant Green (7-for-23) hasn’t looked comfortable defensively, Josh Rutledge (7-for-31, eight strikeouts) hasn’t hit and Johnny Giavotella (5-for-20) hasn’t done anything to wow you on either end. One guy who has looked good to me is Taylor Featherston, who’s being groomed for the utility-infield job. I like his defense, I like his speed, and his bat may be starting to come around. But I view second base the same way I did at the start of camp: We’ll either see a lot of different guys play the position this year, or we’ll see the Angels go after someone (Chase Utley?).

The rotation order is not: It’s pretty clear that, barring injury, the Angels’ rotation will line up in this order to start the season: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney. Yes, the fifth spot was deemed an open competition between Santiago, Heaney and Nick Tropeano, but here’s the thing: (1) Garrett Richards is pretty much guaranteed to start the season on the disabled list, because the Angels are being extra, extra cautious with his rehab, as expected; (2) with Richards on the DL, it’s senseless to have both Tropeano and Heaney in your rotation and Santiago in the ‘pen, as opposed to having Heaney or Tropeano in Triple-A, because it messes with your starting-pitching depth; (3) Heaney and Tropeano have been pitching on the same day, but Heaney started the first one, pitched the home half of a split squad in the second and will start against the Dodgers on Thursday, with Tropeano relegated to pitching in a “B” game. It’s Heaney’s spot to lose, and he’s done nothing to lose it thus far.

A big decision with Santiago awaits: Richards will be ready some time around the middle of April, if his rehab continues to go well. At that point, the Angels will have a big decision to make with Santiago, who has posted a 3.58 ERA in 106 games (51 starts) in the Majors the last three years. Do they keep him in the rotation and send Heaney (or Tropeano) to Triple-A? Do they move him to the bullpen, even though he seems somewhat redundant with Cesar Ramos (another lefty who pitches multiple innings and doesn’t profile as a left-on-left specialist)? Do they use him as trade bait? I can see any of those three scenarios taking place, but I’d be somewhat shocked if they sent him to Triple-A, like they did in May of last season.

The Angels will have two lineups: Assuming Rutledge gets the first crack at the second-base job (that’s what it’s looked like all along), this looks like the lineup against righties: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Joyce/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Iannetta/Rutledge. This looks like the one against lefties, on most days: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Joyce/Iannetta/Rutledge. Mike Scioscia still needs to figure out how often he’ll use the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill to sit Matt Joyce against lefties, and whether he’ll have a left-handed bat to sit C.J. Cron against tough righties. And that brings me to my next point …

Efren Navarro looks like a good fit: I didn’t have Navarro in my projected Opening Day roster at the start of Cactus League games, mainly because I felt they’d keep Giavotella (out of options) to maintain as many options as possible for the second-base job. But Navarro looks like an ideal fit for the last bench spot. He’s a patient left-handed hitter who can sit Cron against tough righties, he plays great defense at first base and he’s more than adequate in the corner-outfield spots. Getting 10 hits in his first 26 at-bats hasn’t hurt, either.

Cory Rasmus won’t be a starting pitcher: Well, he won’t be in the traditional sense. Scioscia said recently that Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-, 110-pitch range, but will still be stretched out somewhat in case the Angels need some length. This only validates what I anticipated all along: Rasmus will crack the Opening Day bullpen as a long reliever, basically being used in the same role he pitched in down the stretch last year. It’s a nice role for him.

Mike Trout is really good: He has 12 hits in his first 22 at-bats, and three of them have gone over fences. He also has the same amount of strikeouts as he has stolen bases (3). What else do you want?

Albert Pujols looks good: Several members of the Angels feel Pujols is poised for an even better year now that he’s even healthier in his lower half, and he’s looked good so far, going 8-for-25 and hitting the ball hard to right-center field. The latter is key for him.

David Freese is going to be really important: I think he’s the Angels’ most important everyday player, because they’ll be counting on him to provide additional pop in the middle with Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton not there and because he’ll probably be playing all nine innings now that the Angels don’t have a natural defensive sub. Of the four second base/utility infield candidates, Featherston has looked the best at third, but he hasn’t played above Double-A, so I doubt the Angels will be putting him in games with a one-run lead in the ninth.

Richards still throws hard: Besides occasionally having a hard time burying the breaking ball, Richards’ stuff has looked about as explosive as it usually does this spring, which is a very good sign.

Cron looks good: Sometimes he’ll strikeout chasing the fastball up near his head. You’re going to get that with Cron, who chased the same percentage of pitches outside the strike zone as Hamilton last season. But Cron has also driven the ball well this spring, hitting long home runs to left and some well-struck doubles to right-center. If Freese is the No. 1 most important member of the lineup, Cron is 1B. He’s the wild card.

It’s Lindstrom’s job to lose: if Rasmus is in the Opening Day bullpen, then only one spot is open (the others go to Huston Street, Joe Smith, Mike Morin, Fernando Salas and Ramos). Matt Lindstrom looks like an ideal candidate for that final spot, because he still throws pretty hard (few others in the ‘pen do), has a good track record and is an XX(B) free agent, which means he has the right to opt out of his contract (or make an additional $100,000 as a retention bonus) if not on the Opening Day roster. But he has to earn it. And aside from giving up two runs on three hits on March 12 — while pitching in the inning when Will Ferrell played center field — Lindstrom has looked good. If Lindstrom doesn’t make it, I expect Vinnie Pestano to be in the ‘pen. Pestano has options, though.

Alden

Smith returning from lower leg stiffness …

Rob Manfred couldn’t comment on Josh Hamilton‘s situation when asked about it from reporters at Dodgers camp on Monday morning. But Major League Baseball’s new Commissioner did state that he will be the one deciding on the length of a potential suspension from what sources say was a drug of abuse.

“I’m the decision maker on this one,” Manfred said.

The fact Hamilton is rehabbing from surgery on his right AC joint, and is in Houston rehabbing instead of being in Spring Training with the Angels, makes the timing of an eventual decision “a little more relaxed,” Manfred added.

Here’s the lineup against Hamilton’s former team, the Rangers …

Collin Cowgill, RF
Josh Rutledge, 3B
Matt Joyce, LF
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Efren Navarro, 1B
Taylor Featherston, SS
Johnny Giavotella, 2B
Daniel Robertson, CF

SP: RH Jered Weaver

Angels setup man Joe Smith will make his Cactus League debut on Monday, after taking his time to make sure he was fully recovered from lower leg stiffness. If he takes just one day off in between the rest of the spring, Smith would make 10 appearances (including Wednesday’s off day, which he’s slated to pitch in). Typically, Smith likes to make eight appearances to feel ready.

“My arm’s still in shape,” Smith said. “I’ve still obviously been doing stuff. It just hasn’t been on the mound or game related. I’m not worried about the time. I know my body’s ready. My leg’s feeling just like normal. It was just trying to get that tightness out.”

Some additional notes …

  • The Angels made three more Spring Training cuts on Monday morning, with right-handed relievers Danny Reynolds, Jeremy McBryde and Frank Herrmann heading to Minor League camp.
  • The Angels’ annual Prospect Game – which is, of course, an intrasquad game with all their prospects – will take place Wednesday, March 25, at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 6 p.m. MT. It’s open to the public.
  • Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus are also slated to pitch today. Mike Scioscia said Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-pitch range this spring, so he won’t be treated as a traditional starter, but they’re making sure he has his length in case they need him for the rotation. I expect him to be in the bullpen as a long reliever to start the season.
  • Hector Santiago felt good a day after getting hit by a comebacker on the inside of his left forearm on Sunday, and Scioscia said he’ll throw his normal between-starts bullpen in anticipation of starting again on Friday.

Alden

Baldoquin arrives & the Angels get back to normal …

After Thursday’s Will Ferrell extravaganza, the Angels could finally get back to normal on Friday … right?

Billy Crystal‘s coming today, he’s going to play shortstop,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia joked.

Here’s the lineup on a day when most everyday players were off, as expected …

Collin Cowgill, CF
Efren Navarro, RF
Matt Joyce, DH
C.J. Cron, 1B
Chris Iannetta, C
Josh Rutledge, SS
Grant Green, 3B
Marc Krauss, LF
Alex Yarbrough, 2B

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker

  • Roberto Baldoquin is finally in Arizona after getting all his visa issues in order and is expected to work out in Minor League camp when they start full workouts Saturday. Right on time, despite all the headaches.
  • Joyce is back in the lineup after getting scratched on Thursday with some tightness in his hamstring. He missed two days earlier in camp with some soreness in his right side.
  • Garrett Richards is slated to get off a mound and do some PFP work on Friday. His first Cactus League start is tentatively scheduled for March 23 against the Mariners. The 26-year-old right-hander will have to face hitters in a controlled environment before then, likely in the off day on Wednesday (along with Shoemaker).
  • Joe Smith expects to make his Cactus League debut either Sunday or Monday. The Angels’ setup man typically only needs eight appearances to be ready for the regular season, so he has time.
  • C.J. Wilson, scratched from his Thursday start after tweaking his left knee, is still on track to start Tuesday.
  • Padres lineup here.

Alden

Narrowing down the Angels’ postseason roster …

The Angels have a lot of questions to sort through before their postseason roster must be submitted to Major League Baseball on the morning of Oct. 2, must prominent of which is the health of Josh Hamilton and Matt Shoemaker. Assuming Hamilton and Shoemaker are healthy (-ish), here’s a look at the players I deem locks to crack Mike Scioscia‘s ALDS roster …

Starting lineup

Chris Iannetta
Albert Pujols
Howie Kendrick
David Freese
Erick Aybar
Hamilton
Mike Trout
Kole Calhoun

Starting rotation

Jered Weaver
C.J. Wilson
Shoemaker
Hector Santiago

Relievers

Huston Street
Joe Smith
Kevin Jepsen
Jason Grilli
Fernando Salas
Mike Morin

Reserves

Hank Conger
Gordon Beckham
Collin Cowgill

That’s 21 of 25 spots. Now here’s a look at the guys who are perceivably on the bubble (again, just my educated guess here) …

SS/3B/2B John McDonald: The 39-year-old has had a very set role all year, as a late-game defensive replacement for Freese at third base, but it would be tough to carry him given the fact Beckham — acquired with the playoffs in mind — can essentially fill the same role.

DH/LF/RF Brennan Boesch: The power left-handed hitter has started 10 games in September, and entered Monday with six hits (and two homers) in his last 16 at-bats. Scioscia clearly likes playing him, but not in the field, and he may have to if Hamilton can only DH.

1B/LF/RF Efren Navarro: He doesn’t bring as much power as Boesch, but he’s another lefty bat who has adjusted quickly to the outfield and is a very disciplined hitter.

1B/DH C.J. Cron: I expect at least one of Boesch or Navarro to make the team, and I’d be shocked if Cron didn’t make it as a right-handed power bat who can start (or pinch-hit) against a lefty.

CF/LF/RF Tony Campana: Campana can play a very particular role on this team, as a Chone Figgins-esque pinch-runner. His placement on the roster could hinge greatly on whether the Angels go with a 12-man pitching staff (commonplace for the regular season) or 11-man pitching staff (commonplace for the shorter ALDS).

LH Joe Thatcher: It seemed like a given that Thatcher would crack the roster as that critical lefty specialist when the Angels traded for him in July, but he’s been slowed by an ankle injury and hasn’t fared well against lefties this year, and Scioscia has often said he won’t carry a lefty if he isn’t getting outs.

RH Cory Rasmus: The Angels have plenty of right-handed power arms in their bullpen, but Rasmus has pitched well and provides length. Who knows, maybe he even starts a playoff game.

LH Wade LeBlanc: LeBlanc doesn’t seem to have a chance at cracking the roster if Shoemaker is healthy, but what if he has another solid start on Tuesday?

Alden

Hamilton sits again in Boston …

Angels cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton was out of the starting lineup for a second straight day on Monday, with manager Mike Scioscia wanting to give him some extra time to recover from his ongoing slump.

Hamilton has five hits and 18 strikeouts in his last 38 at-bats, dropping his batting average to .266 while keeping him stuck on eight home runs in 72 games. He’s scheduled to come to Fenway Park early on Tuesday to have a one-on-one session with hitting coaches Don Baylor and Dave Hansen “to try to find a comfortable concept in the batter’s box that he can take to the game,” Scioscia said.

“I’m all right,” Hamilton said, “but I don’t make the lineup. … I’m gonna do some early work tomorrow, see how it goes. If I hit enough out, I’ll play.”

With Hamilton out, Howie Kendrick – with 10 hits in his last 30 at-bats – batted in the No. 4 spot for the second straight day and Brennan Boesch started in left field, with Albert Pujols at designated hitter and Efren Navarro at first base. Scioscia will try to stay away from Hamilton in the series opener against the Red Sox.

The 33-year-old slugger has missed five games in the last nine days, if you count two Angels off days on Tuesday and Thursday. Hamilton got mental breaks Monday and each of the last two Sundays.

“It brings a lot of attention to what you’re trying to do when a guy you count on to hit in the middle of your lineup is struggling for a long period of time. We have every confidence, and I know Josh does, that he’s going to find it and he’s going to contribute. Any concern would just be short term trying to find a path that’s going to get him where he needs to be. This guy’s going to hit.”

Alden

Green on DL with back strain; Cron back up …

Angels utility man Grant Green was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday because of what was initially diagnosed as a strain in his lumbar, a region that makes up his lower back.

First baseman C.J. Cron – basically the everyday designated hitter until he was sent down on Saturday – was called back up from Triple-A as the corresponding move, and Green spent the afternoon visiting team doctors to get a sense for how long he’ll be out.

Green hit the game-winning single on Sunday, then was unavailable the last couple of games. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Green tweaked his back while working out in the weight room; not amid the walk-off celebration.

“It seemed like today it was going in the wrong direction,” Scioscia said, “so we’re going to shut him down for a little bit.”

The Angels will continue to rotate at left field, first base and DH, with Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols getting starts at DH as needed, and the left-handed-hitting Efren Navarro and the right-handed-hitting Cron filling in. The Angels currently have a short bench due to an eight-man bullpen, which is expected to continue until Monday’s off day.

Cron, a 24-year-old rookie, batted .295 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in his first 47 games, a big reason why the 42-year-old Raul Ibanez was released. But he went 3-for-26 with seven strikeouts and no walks in his next six contests before getting optioned back to the Minors. Scioscia called it “the cyclical nature of hitting.”

“C.J. can hit,” Scioscia said. “He’s always hit. It’s just that there’s going to be some periods when you don’t get those balls to fall in, and I think more than anything that’s what you were seeing with C.J.

“The original plan with C.J. was really just to let him exhale. He was really pressing up here a little bit before he got sent down, and hopefully he’s been able to exhale a little bit and be ready to contribute.”

Cron was expected to land about 90 minutes prior to game time, so he’ll be available off the bench.

Lineup …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Josh Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Navarro, 1B
Chris Iannetta, C

SP: RH Jered Weaver (10-6, 3.43 ERA)

Alden

Burnett ‘excited, anxious to get back out there’ …

Sean Burnett, Mike SciosciaAfter an injury-riddled season, a surgical procedure, a nine-month rehab and a frustrating setback, lefty reliever Sean Burnett finally returned to the Majors on Friday, primed to appear out of the Angels’ bullpen for the first time in nearly a year.

“It’s a special day for me,” Burnett said, “and a day I’ve been waiting for a long time. I’m excited, anxious to get back out there.”

Burnett – signed to a two-year, $8 million contract in December 2012 – appeared in only 13 games last season before finally succumbing to elbow surgery in August 2013, a procedure that saw Dr. James Andrews re-open the scar from Burnett’s Tommy John surgery in 2004 and clean up residual scar tissue.

Burnett rehabbed all winter, started throwing bullpen sessions in Spring Training, had a bad reaction to a synvisc shot – an injectable lubricant used to treat arthritis – in late March, took a couple steps back, then slowly worked his way into a rehab assignment with Double-A Arkansas, giving up three runs in his first appearance and then throwing five straight scoreless outings.

The 31-year-old’s fastball sat mostly between 88 and 90 mph, which is about where he needs it to be, and said “the biggest thing for me was the movement was there, the life was on the ball, and I was able to locate down in the zone and repeat it.”

To activate Burnett off the disabled list, the Angels optioned first baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro to Triple-A Salt Lake, going back to the standard 13 position players and 12 relievers. Angels manager Mike Scioscia called Burnett “one of those guys that you don’t realize what he brings until he’s not here.”

With Burnett – 2.76 ERA, 1.23 WHIP with the Nats from 2010-12 – the Angels finally have a proven lefty reliever in a division with several menacing left-handed bats, one Scioscia can pair with Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri in the back end of the bullpen.

Scioscia would like to get Burnett a low-leverage inning to get him re-acclimated, but said “if that game situation finds him tonight, he’s going to be out there.”

“I’m there physically,” Burnett said. “It’s just now the anxiousness and the nerves of getting back out there and doing it again for the first time in a big league mound. The stuff’s there, and the action on the ball is where it needs to be. It’s just controlling my emotions those first couple times out and not letting the excitement get to be.”

Some additional notes prior to the opener of a three-game series against the Royals …

  • Josh Hamilton (2-for-4 in his rehab debut on Thursday) was a late scratch from the Triple-A Salt Lake lineup on Friday. Scioscia said he got jammed badly in the ninth inning, causing soreness in his surgically repaired left thumb, and didn’t feel good during batting practice. He’s expected to return to the lineup on Saturday. As for whether Hamilton can be back by Monday in Seattle, as the left fielder had hoped, Scioscia said, “We’ll take it one day at a time.” No need to rush him for that, though.
  • Mike Trout (tight left hamstring) is back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game and then benefitting from the Angels’ scheduled off day on Thursday. He’s feeling a lot better.
  • Third baseman Ian Stewart (left hand contusion) had a “great” workout earlier today and could go on a rehab assignment on Saturday, Scioscia said.

Royals (23-23)

Nori Aoki, RF
Alcides Escobar, SS
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Billy Butler, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Danny Valencia, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Pedro Ciraco, 2B
Brett Hayes, C

SP: LH Danny Duffy (2-3, 1.42 ERA)

Angels (26-20)

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

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (5-3, 3.16 ERA)

Alden

Santiago optioned to Triple-A …

Hector SantiagoThe Angels optioned Hector Santiago to Triple-A on Wednesday, 12 days after he was removed from the rotation, as the corresponding move to activate right fielder Kole Calhoun.

The Angels now have only an 11-man pitching staff, but will probably go back to the traditional 12 by Friday, with either Dane De La Rosa or Sean Burnett returning from the disabled list and a position player – likely Efren Navarro – going down to Triple-A.

Simply put, Santiago needs to pitch.

The 26-year-old left-hander had made only two appearances in nearly two weeks as a pseudo swingman and the Angels still view him as a starting pitcher long term. So he’ll get stretched out again with the Salt Lake Bees, with the hope of recapturing the command that will eventually bring him back to the rotation.

“Take it as a positive,” Santiago said, even though it was hard for him to. “They want me in the rotation; they want to keep me stretched out. But now it’s just time to work and get back into it.”

Santiago, acquired along with Tyler Skaggs in the three-team deal that sent Mark Trumbo to the D-backs in December, went 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA in the first seven starts of his Angels career. Some of it had to do with very little run support, or several instances of bad luck, or a back ailment he nursed through most of his first three starts. But mostly, Santiago was walking too many hitters (4.3 per nine innings) and letting too many innings snowball.

So early Wednesday afternoon, Santiago got called into manager Mike Scioscia’s office, where general manager Jerry Dipoto and pitching coach Mike Butcher were waiting with news the southpaw partly deemed inevitable.

“We were very open and honest about what we saw and what he needs to do, and Hector was very receptive,” Scioscia said. “I think he has a good frame of mind to work on the things he needs to work on, and I’d be very surprised if we’re not seeing him throwing the ball to his capabilities in a short amount of time, because he has a great arm.”

In the meantime, Matt Shoemaker will continue to fill Santiago’s old spot.

Shoemaker, a 27-year-old Minor League journeyman, has given up just three runs in 11 innings while beating Cliff Lee and David Price in two starts. He’ll take his regular turn on Saturday – the Angels are keeping their pitching schedule in order after the Thursday off day – and continue to start until either he struggles or Santiago gets it together or both occur.

“It’s a little bump in the road,” Santiago said. “Go down and work on the same thing we’ve been working on and take some positives out of the last outing and run with it.”

Some additional notes from a pretty newsy day …

  • Mike Trout was out of the starting lineup for the first time on Wednesday due to the left hamstring tightness he’s been experiencing for the last few days. The move was just precautionary, because Trout can take two days off with the Angels not playing on Thursday. He said the hamstring actually feels better today.
  • Pitching prospect R.J. Alvarez was placed on the seven-day Minor League disabled list due to some “elbow tenderness,” Dipoto confirmed. Alvarez flew back to Anaheim to get an MRI, which is pretty much standard operating procedure. Alvarez’s velocity was normal during his most recent outing on May 12 — five strikeouts in two perfect innings for Double-A Arkansas — and the Angels don’t have any reason to believe it’s anything serious at this point.
  • Calhoun batted sixth today, but will probably return to the leadoff spot when Josh Hamilton returns to the lineup (maybe Monday).
  • De La Rosa (Triple-A) and Burnett (Double-A) are both slated to pitch in a rehab outing today.
  • Ian Stewart (left hand contusion) is still experiencing some pain when he takes batting practice, but is hoping to go on a rehab assignment this weekend.

Alden

Decisions loom, but Ibanez probably safe …

Raul Ibanez, Yan GomesThe Angels will have a lot of interesting decisions to make in the next few days, but it appears Raul Ibanez’s standing on the roster will not be one of them.

Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t flat out say that the veteran designated hitter will not be released, but the Angels’ general manager did indicate that the club would continue to be patient with Ibanez – because he turned things around after a slow start last year, because they like his veteran presence, because he’s come through in late-game situations and because keeping him on the roster allows the organization to preserve depth.

“One of the real benefits about where we’re at right now is just the fact that we have unmasked some depth, and once you start peeling depth away, it’s not there anymore,” Dipoto said. “Raul has a track record. He has done this before. He has gone through cold spells, and he has gotten hot. There’s nobody here who believes Raul has had his last good days in the big leagues.”

The Angels’ current dilemma, no doubt, is a good one.

Efren Navarro, Grant Green, C.J. Cron and Luis Jimenez have come up from Triple-A and contributed in the last few weeks, and now several key position players are on the verge of being activated off the disabled list.

Third baseman David Freese (non-displaced fracture in right middle finger) and right fielder Kole Calhoun (sprained right ankle) are deep into a rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake and could be back within the next couple days.

That would presumably lead to Jimenez (a right-handed-hitting third baseman) and Navarro (a left-handed hitter currently playing corner outfield) getting optioned.

But next week, when left fielder Josh Hamilton (sprained left thumb) and third baseman Ian Stewart (left hand contusion) are projected to return, is when things could get interesting.

The Angels would then perceivably have to make a decision between Green, a right-handed hitter who can play up to four different positions, and Cron, the slugging prospect who can spell Albert Pujols by playing first base and can be a right-handed-hitting complement to Ibanez at DH.

Stewart, who has batted .176 and struck out 31 times in 24 games, can be optioned to Triple-A.

“We’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in getting guys back,” Dipoto said. “And the guys who have come up and chipped in have done such a great job that it makes it tough to have conversations. But my goodness, when you look at the way the roster has been stacked, it’s been fun.”

Ibanez, 41, has a .148/.268/.269 slash line in his first 36 games, but he posted only a .511 OPS in April last year and then turned it around shortly thereafter, with a 1.031 OPS in May. The Angels believe he can do the same now.

“To be fair, you bring a guy in, you remain patient with him, you give him his opportunity,” Dipoto said. “Raul wasn’t brought in to jam into the 4-hole and hit cleanup for a month. It hadn’t been a great six weeks for him. We’ll get him where he needs to be.”

Alden

Hamilton batting 3rd, at DH, vs. Giants …

If you’re coming to Tempe Diablo Stadium today, you’re going to see Josh Hamilton — back at his customary 240 pounds — make his Spring Training debut. He’s batting third and serving as the designated hitter, and will get two or three at-bats.

St. Patrick’s Day is exactly two weeks from Opening Day, but Hamilton said Sunday that starting the season on the disabled list “isn’t even on the table,” even though he typically likes to get somewhere between 45 and 55 at-bats to get ready for the regular season. He can load up on at-bats in Minor League games, and he’s been taking part in live batting practice in each of the previous three days.

Some other notes from Monday morning (the two split squad lineups are here and here) …

  • Raul Ibanez, as you might have noticed, debuts at first base today — a position he hasn’t started since 2005. If Ibanez and/or Calhoun can prove capable of playing first base, then Scioscia won’t have to change his lineup on the days Albert Pujols DH’s.
  • Garrett Richards will pitch on the main field at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 1 p.m. PT during the Angels’ off day on Tuesday, against another organization’s Triple-A team. Hank Conger will catch, and Ernesto Frieri is also slated to pitch. Richards will get up at least six times.
  • Pujols got permission to leave the team today in order to attend an event benefiting the Pujols Family Foundation in Chicago. He’s expected back on Tuesday.
  • Speaking of Pujols, we’re five days away from the first official game of the regular season (in Australia), which is a good time to look at the Angels’ No. 5.
  • The Angels optioned five players to Triple-A Salt Lake: Right-handed reliever Josh Wall, left-handed reliever Buddy Boshers, first baseman Efren Navarro, third baseman Luis Jimenez and shortstop Tommy Field. They’re now at 44 players.
  • Mike Scioscia will stay at home to watch Hector Santiago; pitching coach Mike Butcher (and probably a ton of scouts) will go to Mesa, Ariz., to watch Joe Blanton.

Alden

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