ANAHEIM -- C.J. Cron batted cleanup for Monday's series opener against the Yankees, which says a lot about how well the power-hitting prospect has fared against Major League pitching early on. But it may say even more about Raul Ibanez's struggles in general.
The left-handed-hitting Ibanez sat against an opposing right-hander -- in this case David Phelps -- for just the fourth time all year, due in large part to a .144/.222/.289 slash line through his first 27 games. If that continues, the 24-year-old Cron -- with five hits in his first nine Major League at-bats heading into Monday -- could take away a lot more of Ibanez's at-bats at designated hitter.
But Angels manager Mike Scioscia downplayed that notion pregame.
"Raul's going to play," Scioscia said. "We need him to find his way and hit. But on occasional days, we're going to mix and match a little bit. We'll let Raul exhale a little bit and relax and get back in there. C.J. is obviously swinging the bat well. We're going to try to find room in our lineup for guys that are swinging the bat well, and right now, he is."
Ibanez, 41, is hitless in his last four starts and has struck out 30 times, with a strikeout percentage of 30.3 that's on pace to easily top his career high (25.8 percent, set last season). But Ibanez has historically been a slow starter -- his .756 career OPS in April is his lowest of any month -- and Scioscia said Ibanez is fine physically.
He's just searching for some timing.
"He's trying to find his rhythm in the box," Scioscia said. "Sometimes he's a little up front, sometimes he's a little behind, sometimes he's swinging at some pitches that are a little bit out of the zone. There's probably a lot of factors to look at why he's struggling, and all that being said, his production numbers are still good. The number of guys he's driven in  is what you're looking for. He's hit some key home runs for us. It's definitely in there. He'll find it."
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.