Izturis to have key to unlocking offense

Izturis to have key to unlocking offense

Izturis to have key to unlocking offense
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels' Mad Scientist will be hard at work in his laboratory for the next month. Manager Mike Scioscia will be mixing and stirring his test tubes, trying to concoct the best potion/lineup for his creative and aggressive offense.

It figures to be an ongoing process well into the regular season -- although Scioscia would rather not approach the 133 different lineups injuries and slumps forced him into in 2010. But it will certainly be dynamic, early indication of which is that a projected Opening Day lineup is topped by an intended utility man.

Make that Utility man, Esq.: Maicer Izturis is considered by the manager as a key to unlocking an offense that too often locked up on the Angels last season. Only, Izturis will turn that key all over the infield.

Scioscia's lineup "template" for March 31 in Kansas City has Izturis leading off and playing third base.

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"But will he start more games at third than anybody else? No," Scioscia said. "Izzy will be a primary player at three different positions. We'll have an opportunity to give [second baseman] Howie [Kendrick] and [shortstop] Erick [Aybar] breathers when Albert Callaspo is at third. So if Izzy plays 100 games, it might be 30-30-40. It's something we'll be looking at every day."

Callaspo, an original Angels prospect whom the club reacquired last July 22 from the Royals for righty Sean O'Sullivan and Minor League left-hander Will Smith, is expected to be the quasi-regular at third base. But the presence of Callaspo, who was acquired during one of Izturis' three disabled-list stints, creates a bit of a mash-up to Scioscia's "lineup depth." The two are similar players, with Izturis having better speed and a reputation as a better defensive player.

Scioscia does not view any of this as a quandary. He values Izturis more as someone able to handle any of the infield positions, without a drop either in defense or in his own knack for igniting an offense. That has been Izturis' role since coming to the Angels in 2005 -- he has started 100-plus games at each of the positions.

But Izturis' foremost assignment this season will be to recapture his 2009 impact. In a career-most 114 games that season, he batted .300 and scored 74 runs, helped by an on-base percentage of .359. In-between his disablements, those numbers last season were down to .250, 27 and .321.

In 2009, the Angels ranked second in the American League with 883 runs scored. In 2010, the Angels were ninth in the league with 681 runs. Much of that drop of 200-plus was traceable to Izturis' absence at the throttle.

"We talk about keys to the offense, and a lot of that gets back to Izzy, for good reason," Scioscia said.

The rest of Scioscia's Opening Day template:

Bobby Abreu, DH; Torii Hunter, RF; Kendry Morales, 1B; Vernon Wells, LF; Kendrick, 2B; Aybar, SS; Jeff Mathis, C; Peter Bourjos, CF.