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Hamilton might slide out of cleanup vs. lefties

Hamilton might slide out of cleanup vs. lefties

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Angels slugger Josh Hamilton could find his way out of the cleanup spot against opposing left-handers this season, at least initially.

That was the case against veteran southpaw Bruce Chen on Thursday, when the right-handed-hitting David Freese moved up to fourth -- behind Albert Pujols -- and the lefty-hitting Hamilton moved down to fifth. Versus lefties, it could be Freese fourth, Hamilton fifth, Howie Kendrick sixth and Raul Ibanez seventh, to break up to the two power left-handed bats.

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"We're going to work around the middle at times until we get it settled," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But we definitely want Albert to get his opportunities to hit with guys in scoring position, so you have to set the table in front of him and hopefully have some guys behind him. So we might work that a little bit. We'll see how it goes, though. When Josh is right, there's no doubt that he's going to hit lefties also. But we'll let him get into his game."

Scioscia also had switch-hitting shortstop Erick Aybar leading off and the left-handed-hitting Kole Calhoun batting seventh, but that was simply to get Aybar more plate appearances from the right side of the plate. Calhoun is expected to lead off against righties and lefties.

Hamilton, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in his third game back from a strained left calf, has a career .993 OPS against righties and a career .772 OPS against lefties.

Freese, meanwhile, has an .843 career OPS against lefties. And Hamilton's dropped to .596 last season, as he struggled to a career-worst .250/.307/.432 slash line. But he batted .329/.392/.518 over his last 45 games, and during that stretch, Hamilton's slash line was a respectable .276/.317/.534 against lefties.

"He got better against everybody," Scioscia said. "I think his at-bats were much improved as the season went on. He's as comfortable in the box right now as he was at any point last year, and that's a great sign."

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.

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