Trout to stay connected to Pujols in batting order

Trout to stay connected to Pujols in batting order

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia reiterated Thursday that he prefers to keep Mike Trout and Albert Pujols connected in the lineup, which means the 2-3-4 spots figure to be Trout-Pujols-Josh Hamilton, respectively, and that a new leadoff man will have to emerge.

Kole Calhoun still looks like the leading candidate, though Erick Aybar is also an option. Scioscia isn't making any declaration before Spring Training starts.

"I think Kole's definitely a candidate," Scioscia said Thursday, just before his annual preseason meeting with the Angels' staff. "But whoever's hitting in front of Mike needs to be a player who first of all can take advantage of being challenged, and secondly bring some on-base [percentage] to be able to set the table and run at a decent speed where you're not clogging the bases up. Kole's definitely a candidate for that. That guy's going to have to hit his way on base."

In other words: Whoever bats in front of Trout can expect to get a lot of pitches to hit, because the last thing pitchers will want to do is walk the guy who's batting ahead of him.

Scioscia likes having Pujols behind Trout because it should diminish the amount of times Trout is intentionally walked, and because Pujols is the guy he wants up if Trout is given a free pass. Scioscia also likes having Trout bat second because of the RBI opportunities.

In 2012, while solely batting first, Trout had 135 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

In 2013, when he spent 18 games batting first, 89 games batting second and 50 games batting third after Pujols went down, Trout had 184 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

The biggest concern is the walks. Trout drew 110 of them last year, more than anyone in the American League and 43 more than in 2012. Scioscia wants to form his lineup in a way that will maximize the amount of pitches Trout gets to hit -- but he doesn't want the 22-year-old to change his approach.

"I don't think Mike needs to change a thing," Scioscia said. "Plate discipline is a gift, and he has it. The deep counts he runs into might lead to an extra strikeout here or there, but what it creates for what we do and the potential it has for us to grind out games is huge. And he's still be putting up numbers."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.