Could Calhoun stay in the cleanup spot?
SAN FRANCISCO -- Kole Calhoun's move from the leadoff spot to the cleanup spot, a direct response to Albert Pujols' ailing hamstring, isn't necessarily an adjustment. It's actually a return to his comfort zone.
"It's definitely familiar," Calhoun said. "That's where I've been most of my career. The place I've been least is the leadoff spot. I definitely have embraced the leadoff spot, and like it a lot, but if there's a situation where something comes up, kind of like Albert hurting a hamstring, I'm definitely more than willing to move back."
Perhaps a more permanent move to the middle of the lineup is in order.
The Angels led the Majors in runs last year, but this year's group -- without Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton -- lacked depth through the season's first month. Take out Calhoun (.315/.367.493 slash line), Mike Trout (.329/.447/.592) and Johnny Giavotella (.317/.380/.413), and the Angels' team batting average entering Friday's series opener against the Giants was .195.
That will improve, of course, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia has spent the entire year looking for more production in the middle and the bottom of his lineup. Keeping Calhoun in the middle of the order when Pujols returns -- a move that could make Erick Aybar the leadoff hitter, directly ahead of Trout -- could help alleviate some of those concerns.
"If the whole lineup ends up making more sense with Kole out of the leadoff position, we'll do it," Scioscia said. "But I don't know if we're at that position right now."
The key is finding someone to produce in front of Trout, which, in Scioscia's mind, isn't only about on-base ability.
"You also want him to drive the ball," Scioscia said. "He's going to get a lot to hit, and you have to take advantage of it. That's ideal. And I think that's why Kole was a good fit there."
Aybar is a.276/.315/.384 hitter in 1,080 career plate appearances in the leadoff spot, a slash line that's almost identical to his overall career numbers. Scioscia has always believed Aybar is more comfortable hitting in a more traditional RBI spot, like fifth or sixth, and sounded like he wants to let the season play out a little longer before making any drastic changes.
The Angels' typical order with Pujols is: Calhoun, Trout, Pujols, David Freese, Aybar, Matt Joyce, C.J. Cron, Chris Iannetta, Giavotella.
"It's hard to rearrange your depth before you know the value of everything," Scioscia said. "I don't think we know that right now."
If the move isn't made, it would have more to do with struggling to find a leadoff hitter than Calhoun's production in the middle of the order. Calhoun may only be 5-foot-10, but he's a legitimate power hitter. He slugged .545 throughout his Minor League career and is slugging .450 in the Major Leagues, where the average is .390.
"It's something familiar, and I've done it throughout my career," Calhoun said of batting cleanup. "I've definitely been enjoying these few days, or however long this stretch might be. It's cool."
• Pujols ran on an anti-gravity treadmill prior to Friday's game, then took batting practice on the field. The Angels' first baseman is still holding out hope of returning to the lineup Saturday or Sunday.
• To increase their first-base depth while Pujols nurses his tight left hamstring, the Angels recalled Efren Navarro from Triple-A Salt Lake, optioning Grant Green to make room on the roster. Navarro can also play the corner-outfield spots.
• In April, the Angels' Minor League affiliates finished first among all organizations in strikeout-to-walk ratio, a big point of emphasis by the front office the last couple of years. They combined to post a 2.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio, averaging 8.70 strikeouts and 3.05 walks per nine innings.