Calhoun resisting temptation of aggression

Calhoun resisting temptation of aggression

TEMPE, Ariz. -- In case there was ever any doubt, Kole Calhoun is the Angels' leadoff hitter. He's started in nine of the days the Angels have had a Spring Training game, and he's led off in all of them. And every single time he has, he's taken the very first pitch of the game.

That's by design.

"I'm not scared to take a walk, to work a count, so I really don't see any advantage of going out hacking," Calhoun said. "I want to let those guys see how a guy's working early in a game and set the table for the guys behind me."

Calhoun is a naturally aggressive hitter, though. He's a run-producer, not necessarily a table-setter. In 20 of his 222 plate appearances in the Majors last year, Calhoun swung at the first pitch, and batted .550 with three home runs.

But batting in front of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton requires you to make significant sacrifices.

"That's where you kind of get caught in the middle," Calhoun said, "because I do like to be aggressive. But now you have to kind of take a step back and see pitches. I don't want to say I want to change something, but, again, you have to get on base."

Calhoun batted .282/.347/.462 down the stretch last year, impressive enough to make center fielder Peter Bourjos expendable and give him the everyday job in right field.

Calhoun isn't the prototypical, all-speed, slap-hitting leadoff hitter -- he might be better than that. He's got decent speed and a nice approach at the plate, but he also supplies plenty of power. And he can expect to see a lot of strikes with the best player on the planet batting behind him.

"I'll see a ton of strikes, for sure," Calhoun said, "but it's way different at the leadoff spot, because how many times are guys going up there hacking at the first pitch? I haven't swung at a first pitch yet, and it's always like a get-me-over fastball or something. Now you're down 0-1, now they can flip a curveball and I'm down 0-2, and I still don't really have an idea of how these guys want to pitch me after my first at-bat. It might take two or three."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for 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.