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Crowded infield not a problem, says Scioscia

Crowded infield not a problem, says Scioscia

Crowded infield not a problem, says Scioscia play video for Crowded infield not a problem, says Scioscia
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Scioscia is no math whiz, but somewhere in his head, there's the perfect equation -- one that has Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu, Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis all getting ample playing time while making minimal sacrifices this season.

Signing Albert Pujols, and entrenching him at first base, has created varying levels of uncertainty for all five of those players. And this spring, Scioscia will begin the process of navigating through that, juggling the playing time at the corner-infield, corner-outfield and designated-hitter spots in hopes of discovering the perfect formula.

Barring a trade, the Angels seem to have too many options at certain positions. Bad problem to have? Not at all.

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Difficult to juggle? Not if you ask Scioscia.

"That is not difficult," the Angels' skipper said. "The difficult thing is times when you're trying to make offense out of things that aren't going to come together. I think we're a deeper team, going to be more balanced on offense, will have guys contribute and be able to keep some of our regulars fresh."

Scioscia's comments coincided with the Wednesday-morning news that a CT scan had cleared Trumbo (right foot) to progress towards full-on baseball activities and, thus, ramp up his work at the new position of third base.

Trumbo joins Callaspo and Izturis as possible third basemen.

He joins Pujols and Morales as options at first base.

And at DH, he's in the mix alongside Morales and Abreu, who plans to start games in left and right fields when Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter get off their feet.

"The problem last year wasn't because guys weren't playing enough," Scioscia said, "but because they were stretched to the limit. I think we're going to be able to alleviate that."

Here's what we pretty much know right now: First base will belong to Pujols and the DH at-bats will go mostly to Morales, who gives them an important power source from the left side if healthy and productive.

Morales, a switch-hitter, is historically better from the left side against right-handed pitchers, with a slash line of .295/.354/.537 in 924 plate appearances against righties and .255/.285/.403 in 316 PAs against southpaws.

Scioscia could sit Morales against a tough lefty, which he did at the beginning of his breakout 2009 season, and use those days to free up the DH spot for the right-handed-hitting Trumbo.

Before any determination can be made there, though, Scioscia has to see what Morales can do against big league pitching.

"We're going to find out," Scioscia said. "He's missed significant time, but hasn't sat out three years. He's young, he's strong, he's in good shape."

The trickiest situation could be that of Abreu, who was told he'd get around 400 plate appearances at the DH and corner-outfield spots this season.

Or it could be that of Trumbo, who took his first real steps towards a move from first to third base with 10-15 minutes of tougher grounders off the bat of bench coach Rob Picciolo on Wednesday.

The transition to third base is easier for a former shortstop (like the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez) than a first baseman (like Trumbo and the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera), and the Angels understand they'll be sacrificing at least some defense at the hot corner when Trumbo starts.

The question is just how much they'll sacrifice, and how often they'll send Trumbo out there. A club source previously said a best-case scenario for the amount of games Trumbo spends at third base this season is 35-40, but that was before seeing how he handles the position.

Trumbo (not Morales) will also play first base the few times Pujols starts at DH, and he could (though he hasn't yet) get some reps in right field.

"We're excited about his versatility because if we can get his bat in the lineup for 100-120 games," Scioscia said, "that's going to be a lot of at-bats where he's going to contribute."

As for concern that moving around too much can translate into diminished production from Trumbo at the plate?

"That's a consideration, but I think Mark is very grounded; always been able to separate things," Scioscia said. "I don't see it, but sure, we'll be trying to address that."

Scioscia hinted that Trumbo's starts at third could come based on whether his starter gives up a lot of groundballs. C.J. Wilson and Jerome Williams are two guys who fall into that category. Wilson was tied for 33rd in the Majors last year in groundball-to-flyball ratio, and Williams features a heavy sinker.

"We're not going to be afraid to put him there," Scioscia said, "but if you had a guy who was not adequate at a position, you could still play him there if the spray chart gave probability that there's not enough action there to cause anything."

On days Trumbo isn't at third base, the nod would go to Callaspo or Izturis, each of whom could also be late-game substitutions when Trumbo does start. But their situations are also a little cloudy because they're pretty similar. Both are switch-hitters, both are versatile -- though Izturis has more experience at shortstop -- and neither rely on power.

"I've always started out that way, and I end up playing," Callaspo said in Spanish when asked about the uncertainty surrounding him. "I'm hoping they give me a chance to play regularly this year, but well, we'll see."

"I know there are a lot of teams that want to give me second base every day, or shortstop every day, but I'm in the hands of [the Angels]," added Izturis, who's in the last year of his contract. "If I'm here, I'm going to try to take on whatever role they give me."

These days, that's a mentality several Angels position players have to take on.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }