SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There is craft that goes into the leadoff role -- especially early on, when tones are set and attitudes formed.
"You want to make the pitcher work in the first inning," Maicer Izturis, the Angels' leading candidate to assume that role this season, said. "You want to see at least four or five pitches. Even if you fall behind 0-2, you have to try to foul off tough pitches, do whatever you can to stay alive.
"It helps the guys hitting behind you if you can make [the pitcher] work. They see more pitches that way and get a good idea what the guy is throwing. If the pitcher gets through the first inning throwing only five or six pitches, it gives him an advantage. He gets into his rhythm, gets confident."
Izturis embraces the challenge of leading off. He has studied Bobby Abreu intently, watching how his teammate is able to go consistently from 0-2 to 3-2 in counts by laying off pitchers' pitches, fouling off borderline strikes, making him work. It's one of the many subtle things Abreu does that the casual fan doesn't see.
"Bobby is the best at that," Izturis said. "I watch him all the time. He is always confident, no matter what the count is. He knows the strike zone and how to handle the bat."
A mutual respect has formed between Abreu and Izturis, both Venezuelan natives.
"Izzy is a very smart player," Abreu said. "He's aware of everything going on. Keeping him healthy is very important for us. He really knows how to play the game the right way."