Angels have 'happy dilemma' in infield
Hot-hitting players creating logjams at several positions
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels have in their infield what the late Al Campanis, during his days as Dodgers general manager, liked to call a "happy dilemma."
They're overflowing with Major League talent at every position, going at least three deep at each of the four spots.
Shortstop/third baseman Brandon Wood and third baseman/first baseman Matt Brown continued their sizzling springs in an 8-4 win over the Indians on Tuesday, and Robb Quinlan joined the party with a two-run single that demonstrated why he's such a valued role player.
Before Quinlan shortened his stroke and knocked in two runs with a pinch-hit single the other way during a five-run seventh inning, Wood once again demonstrated the uncommon power that has stamped him as a can't-miss prospect for four years.
Facing veteran right-hander Carl Pavano in the second inning after singles by Howie Kendrick and Juan Rivera, Wood worked himself into a favorable 2-1 count and unloaded, driving a three-run homer onto the embankment in left field at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
In eight Cactus League games, Wood is hitting .417 with two homers, two doubles, a triple and an .833 slugging percentage. He leads the club with eight RBIs -- but does not have a position with Chone Figgins at third and Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar sharing shortstop.
"I'm just trying to make the team," Wood said. "I can't worry about anything but making myself a better player."
Manager Mike Scioscia has taken note of Wood's improved approach at the plate and how his selectivity is paying off with a better selection of pitches to drive.
"I like his plate discipline," Scioscia said. "He's getting in hitting counts. When he's getting mistakes, he's not missing them.
"We're seeing the player everyone saw last year in Triple-A [Salt Lake]. It's exciting, no doubt about it. You can see the way he's putting up numbers. He's much more confident, comfortable. That's going to be a big factor."
Wood shed about 10 pounds to give him the flexibility to play shortstop, having put on some weight last year when he made the move to third base.
"I got up to 217 [pounds], and that was a little heavy for short," Wood said.
He might not have the range of Aybar -- who does? -- but Wood makes all the plays on the left side of the infield. He showed in September, with Aybar and Izturis sidelined, that he could handle shortstop in the Major Leagues.
"He needs to keep playing baseball," Scioscia said. "That's all Brandon can control."
The same approach applies to Brown, who is behind Wood and Figgins at third and Kendry Morales and Quinlan at first on the depth chart.
One of Team USA's stars in the Beijing Olympics last summer, helping deliver a bronze medal with his timely hitting, Brown is batting .533 (8-for-15) with six RBIs and six walks this spring.
"He's having a great spring," Scioscia said. "He's been coming off the bench a lot, playing the corners. We'll see."
While the Angels pushed their team average to .314 with their 10th win in 12 Cactus League games, the pitching staff shaved its team ERA to 2.87 -- best in the league.
Shane Loux worked three innings, allowing one unearned run in his ongoing effort to nail down one of two open spots in the rotation. Loux hasn't yielded an earned run in seven innings but has been critical of his command.
Loux yielded three hits and a walk while striking out two hitters on Tuesday.
"The first two innings, he was searching for his stuff," Scioscia said, "but once he got in the windup in the third inning, that's what we need to see from Shane."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.