Inbox: Who will play third base?
Angels beat reporter Alden Gonzalez answers fans' questions
Twenty days. That's all that stands between now and the time pitchers and catchers arrive in Spring Training, bringing the return of baseball and the very first glimpse of one of the most anticipated seasons in Angels history.
Heading into that Feb. 19 reporting date, the Angels face an array of questions. And though many of them can't be answered until after they start working out in Tempe, Ariz., I figured I'd give it a shot by deploying my first Inbox.
Thanks to all of those who have reached out with queries via e-mail and Twitter in the eight weeks since I joined the Angels beat. Please keep 'em coming.
Now, here are some answers:
Who is going to play third base for the Angels this year?
-- Sean. G, Mission Viejo, Calif.
Such a simple question, and yet so complicated. The short answer is that right now the Angels hope it'll be a mix between Mark Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo. But a team official told me recently that a best-case scenario for the amount of games Trumbo spends at third base this season is 35-40.
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Simply put, the Angels aren't counting on Trumbo to all of a sudden become their everyday third baseman this season. They just want him to be able to handle the position well enough to give skipper Mike Scioscia more ways to get his bat in the lineup.
I think you're going to see a lot of different lineups this season, based on who matches up best against a certain pitcher, who could use a rest and who's swinging a hot bat. And that's exactly the way new general manager Jerry Dipoto wants it. The way he sees it, you have to get about 650 plate appearances from each position in a given season, and you want to set it up so that you get the most value out of those 650 plate appearances. So while Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar will be fixtures at their positions, third base and the designated-hitter spot -- and, to some degree, all three outfield spots -- will be fluid, constantly rotating to fit the circumstances.
Before all this can be worked out, though, Trumbo needs to be healthy enough to try third base. The stress fracture in his right foot hasn't healed as quickly as he would've liked, but he should be ready for full-fledged baseball activities by the time Spring Training rolls around.
How different is playing third base from playing first base, aside from the obvious part about catching rather than throwing the ball? What sort of things does Trumbo have to work on in order to try to make that transition?
-- Zach V, Fort Collins, Col.
Great question; really the fundamental issue in this complex equation. I spoke to a longtime and trusted scout for a story I did on Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera and Trumbo all attempting the hot corner this season, and he said moving to third is a lot harder on a first baseman than a shortstop. Here's his explanation ...
"The other side of the diamond is a foreign affair. It looks different; the game's played differently. All your throws are different, your whole view is different. ... You have everything played to your left at third base, whereas at first base everything is played either in front of you or to your right. It's really different, and unless you've stood out there and done it, it's just a different game."
Foot injury aside, Trumbo tried third base when he was fresh out of high school in 2004 and simply couldn't cut it. But he feels like 624 games at the other corner in the Minors, and a full season there in the Majors in 2011, will make him a lot more prepared this time around. Here's what he told me in December ...
"I was bad over there [initially]. It was what it was. But I had no experience playing anywhere. I think in the seven, eight years I've been playing [professionally], I've gotten a ton of experience in the infield, and more so at first. I feel comfortable and I think it's something I can definitely handle."
What are the chances Bobby Abreu is somehow moved to acquire more bullpen help? P.S., what happened to Lyle Spencer?
-- Eric K, Ventura, Calif.
I really can't see the Angels making a trade before Spring Training. Frankly, with questions regarding Kendrys Morales' health and Trumbo's ability to play third base, why would they? Why not just wait until they can get a feel for what they have in Tempe, Ariz., then see what makes the most sense?
Now, regarding Abreu, I think the only relief they can expect to get for him at this point comes in the way of money, not arms. He's still valuable because of his left-handed bat and his ability to get on base (don't forget, he had the second-highest on-base percentage on the team last year at .353). But he'll be 38 in March, can't spend much time in the outfield anymore and is owed $9 million in 2012.
I can't see a way Abreu fits on this team if the switch-hitting Morales shows he's healthy and can be a viable option at DH. If that happens, though, the Angels may just hope somebody (Yankees?) can eat up a good portion of Abreu's remaining salary.
As for Lyle, he's now writing columns for MLB.com, mostly about West clubs. You can read his stuff here.
Why don't the Angels try and trade for David Wright?
-- Pat U., Corona, Calif.
I got a lot of these types of questions, so I figured I might as well address it. First off, Wright is owed $15 million next season and the Angels don't have much money left. The Angels are happy with Trumbo and Callaspo, and backup Maicer Izturis, going into Spring Training. Besides, it seems the Mets would prefer to hold on to Wright at least until the non-waiver Trade Deadline. And since Wright can void his 2013 team option and become a free agent after the season if traded, his value may be highest next offseason.
We have improved so much this offseason in every category. However, I still feel our bullpen is unstable and unreliable. I love Jordan Walden and Scott Downs, and Bobby Cassevah and Rich Thompson were actually quite good for us. Yet me and many other fans still don't feel confident in that area of our club. What are some of the things we can do, or you think we might do, to improve this area?
-- Reef S., Redlands, Calif.
It's understandable to feel a little uneasy about the 'pen right now. Dipoto has expressed confidence in the young Walden all offseason, and the smart money would be on him taking that next step and getting even better in 2012. But you never know with these relievers. They can be great one year, terrible the next. Despite adding LaTroy Hawkins in December, I still think the Angels need right-handed relief depth. But it's a matter of how much money they have to spend and what's still available.
Dipoto has tendered a formal offer to Luis Ayala, who had a nice bounce-back year for the Yankees, but again, they're not willing to spend much. Other righty relievers left in the free-agent pool include Todd Coffey, Shawn Camp, Juan Cruz, Chad Qualls and Scott Linebrink.
Not a star-studded cast, I know. Dipoto may need to get creative at some point.
We have one fresh and two seasoned center fielders in our outfield. We have too many men on first base who can DH. [Mike] Trout is ready and needs to come up. How does that get done?
-- Ray W., Jacksonville, Fla.
Ray, I don't think it does on a full-time basis until 2013. The Angels will pay corner outfielders Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells a combined $39 million this season, plus Trout struggled through two stints in the Majors last season, has yet to play in Triple-A and isn't even old enough to drink until Aug. 7. I could see Trout coming up to help the Angels during the stretch run, but there's a spot opening up in the outfield when Hunter becomes a free agent next offseason. There's no harm in giving Trout more seasoning.
OK, I would really like to know when Opening Day tickets go on sale on the website. Can you please tell me when that is? That is something I have really looked forward to since the Angels signed Pujols. Being at the stadium and seeing his first at-bat as an Angel will just be an unbelievable thing to be a part of. -- Jared, F, Mission Viejo, Calif.
I'm sure many fans share your sentiments, Jared. Single-game regular-season tickets usually go on sale in early March, though an official date has not been announced.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.