03/20/11 3:56 PM ET
Morales' absence shuffles Angels' lineup plans
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
While center fielder Peter Bourjos -- with his electric speed -- is developing all the tools and skills needed by a productive leadoff man, the future is not now in that regard. It remains down the road.
"We have a lot of options," Scioscia said on Saturday morning. "I really like the versatility we have with our lineup this year.
"I like our team speed. It might not show up in stolen bases, but no doubt we're going to create more on the basepaths. Last year, we didn't have much speed."
2010 Spring Training - Los Angeles Angels
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Spring Training Info
Scioscia announced on Sunday that Morales will start the regular season on the disabled list. He is running on his surgically repaired left ankle, but has not cleared the hurdle of making cuts and turns on the bases.
With Morales opening the season on the DL, Mark Trumbo -- a spring sensation with his booming bat -- is at first base, with Abreu most likely in the No. 3 spot where he has flourished most of his career.
"I can hit anywhere they want," said Abreu, whose streak of 100-plus RBI seasons ended at seven last year. "But I've spent most of my life batting third, so that's naturally where I'm most comfortable."
A student of the game with a doctorate in disciplined hitting, Abreu is able to observe the starter pitching to two hitters, not one, when he bats third. He thinks this gives him a better feel.
Between Izturis and Abreu, Scioscia can drop in Erick Aybar or Kendrick, depending on matchups.
Aybar's blazing speed and bunting ability play well in the No. 2 hole, and he can be more aggressive at the plate than he is leading off.
Kendrick's value in the No. 2 hole is that he's a contact hitter, whose natural swing takes him to right-center field. He's also fast, if not quite as swift as Aybar. Only Bourjos, arguably the fastest player in the game, can outrun Aybar on the Angels' roster -- until Mike Trout's trumpeted arrival, that is.
Bourjos in the No. 9 spot is clearly the way to go from Scioscia's perspective, at least in the early part of the season. Overmatched early on in his two-month trial late last season, Bourjos has shown vastly improved discipline this spring.
Bunting on occasion to open holes and taking more borderline pitches, he's hitting .344 with a .463 on-base percentage in Cactus League play.
If he carries the confident stroke and discipline he has had through the spring into the season, Bourjos, flanked by Wells and Hunter, will settle into an outfield perhaps without equal in the Majors.
Heading into Saturday's game against the Indians at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Bourjos has seven walks and eight strikeouts. During his August and September exposure to the Major Leagues, the ratio was 6-to-40, leading to a .204 batting average and .237 on-base percentage.
According to Scioscia, Bourjos is "better right now in the batter's box" than he was during August and September.
"He's been able to find that swing in Triple-A [Salt Lake] when he was hitting .400 for a month using the whole field," said Scioscia.
"He's got to learn a whole new cycle of pitchers. Eventually, his bat and speed will play in the 1 or 2 spots. He's not ready for that, yet. But against certain matchups, when Izturis won't play, [Bourjos] definitely could move up."
As the No. 9 hitter, Bourjos is, in effect, a second leadoff man after the first time through the order.
"Until we get Kendrys back," Scioscia said, "our lineup is going to lengthen a little. Most likely, we'll look at something like this [with Izturis and Aybar at the top]. Bobby sets the table, and also passes the baton to the guys behind him. We have a good grouping of guys behind him."
Hunter and Wells, following remarkably similar career paths, are superlative athletes who have shown a compatibility hitting back-to-back.
Kendrick can hit anywhere. Placing Trumbo in the No. 7 spot, ahead of catchers Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson, alleviates some of the early pressure -- much in the way it does with Bourjos batting ninth.
Keeping Izturis on the field is important for a variety of reasons -- and to that end, the Angels figure to try to rest him about two games a week.
Brandon Wood's recent offensive surge -- two homers, a double and triple in nine at-bats -- indicates he has found a confident approach. His left-side infield defense is first-rate, and he's also a capable first baseman, if needed.
A proven contact hitter who doesn't bring much power or speed, Alberto Callaspo is the third option at third base.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.