For Cron, preparation is key in platoon role

Angels first baseman's pinch-hit homer clinches finale vs. Rays

For Cron, preparation is key in platoon role

ANAHEIM -- C.J. Cron is off and running for the second half of the season. Three games out of the All-Star break, the Angels first baseman has made just one plate appearance and has seen only one pitch, but he is a perfect 1-for-1.

The hit was a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the eighth off Rays left-hander Adam Kolarek that lifted the Angels to a 4-3 win on Sunday.

"Been a little bit since I've had an at-bat," Cron said. "I didn't want to give him a pitch there. I wanted to be aggressive, because that's the kind of hitter I am. Fortunately, it was a good pitch to hit."

"It's a huge hit," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully, it's something that C.J. can carry some momentum with."

Cron's go-ahead smash

The connection was substantial -- capturing the result to prevent the Angels from being swept by Tampa Bay, who now hold a three-game lead over the Halos for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. In fact, that margin was on the verge of being increased to five, had the Rays rallied in the ninth, furthering the magnitude of Cron's blast.

Nonetheless, the slugger considered the action normal, if not dutiful.

"That's kind of my job. I'm a big dude," said the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Cron, "and that's kind of why I'm here is to put a charge into a ball and that's pretty much why I hit in that position. It was to drive the guy in from first, and it was just a good pitch to hit. Hung up that first pitch, and thankfully, I was ready."

Cron had entered as a pinch-hitter for starting first baseman Luis Valbuena, who's been ahead of Cron on the depth chart for a greater part of the season. Valbuena started each of the Halos' first three games out of the break at first, marking his 38th appearance at first base.

While Cron has seen his role diminish this year -- he's appeared in 38 games this season after playing a career-high 116 last season -- the 27-year-old insists he stays prepared for whenever his number is called.

"You don't want to not be ready," he said.

Scioscia said it can be tough for a young player used to playing on a daily basis to serve in a platoon role, but was delighted with what Cron provided Sunday.

"For him to just come out there and put a good swing like that, it gave us a big lift," Scioscia said. "I think he had a good plan up there. He got a pitch he could put some good wood on, but it's not easy to do."

Cron said he maintains a focused, aggressive mindset, regardless of his usage.

"I'm just going to go out there and do whatever I can to help the team," he said. "Whether it's however many at-bats it is per week, I'm going to be ready for them. Thankfully, today I was able to help out a little bit."

Kaelen Jonesis a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.