Cron debuts as Freese injury leads to roster shakeup
ANAHEIM -- The Angels couldn't wait on David Freese's finger to heal without utilizing his roster spot, so they placed the veteran third baseman on the 15-day disabled list prior to Saturday's game against the Rangers.
And then they shook up the roster.
Up is power-hitting prospect C.J. Cron, who made his Major League debut at first base and in the No. 5 spot of the lineup -- with Albert Pujols getting moved to designated hitter roughly 90 minutes before game time.
Cron hit an RBI single in the first inning on the first big league pitch he saw, then added a double and a go-ahead RBI single to help lead the Angels to the 5-3 win.
Joining Cron on the roster was third baseman Luis Jimenez, who hit .260 in 34 games with the Angels last year.
Sent down to Triple-A was outfielder J.B. Shuck, the scrappy left-handed hitter who was batting .173 in his first 19 games.
"I feel we do need more right-handed infield depth with David out," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the game, "and we definitely feel that J.B. can benefit from going down there and just figuring some things out."
The Angels cleared a spot on the 40-man roster for Cron by outrighting reliever Yoslan Herrera off the 40-man, three days after optioning him to Triple-A. They then opened spots for Cron and Jimenez on the 25-man roster by sending Shuck down and placing Freese on the DL.
Freese suffered a small, non-displaced fracture in his right middle finger after getting hit by a fastball from Rangers starter Colby Lewis on Friday, but said Saturday that he's "pretty confident" he can be ready at or around the time he's eligible to be activated (May 18).
In the meantime, the right-handed-hitting Jimenez and the left-handed-hitting Ian Stewart figure to platoon at third base, with Jimenez batting eighth against left-hander Matt Harrison on Saturday. Grant Green batted ninth while making his Major League debut in left field, a position he figures to get most of his playing time at moving forward.
Cron, ranked No. 3 in the Angels' system by MLB.com, gives the Angels a right-handed-hitting option at DH and can also play first base if Pujols needs a day off his feet. The left-handed-hitting Raul Ibanez -- with a .149/.221/.299 slash line in his first 26 games -- will be an option at DH and left field.
In short, the lineup -- a lineup that's also without corner outfielders Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun -- will change frequently.
"C.J. had a terrific spring for us," Scioscia said of Cron pregame Saturday. "I think he's really found a comfort level the last couple years he's played, had a great [Arizona] Fall League, and spring-boarded it to a terrific Spring Training. He's off to a great start [in Triple-A], and hopefully he's going to give us a little boost right now, because, especially with David being out, we have a right-handed void."
Cron posted a 1.167 OPS in the Arizona Fall League, batted .292 in 12 Spring Training games, and had a .319/.369/.602 slash line in his first 28 games for Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast League.
After Friday night's game in Utah, the 24-year-old got called into the office and saw manager Keith Johnson and director of player development Bobby Scales standing stoically. Scales told Cron that his times to first base were a little slow and that he needed to work on it, to which Cron replied with "Yes, sir." Then they started cracking up, and Johnson broke the news.
"It was really cool," Cron said before his debut. "I didn't really know what to expect, honestly. It was really early in the season. But I was pleasantly surprised."