2/13/2014 5:20 P.M. ET
McDonald's focus is making Angels as utility man
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Most Minor League contracts have what they call "an out," a specific date when a player can opt out of his deal and try to hook on with another team if he isn't on the Major League roster by that point.
Not John McDonald's deal, because, as the 39-year-old slick-fielder said Thursday: "If another team is going to be interested at some point, they'll be interested. Hopefully I'm here for the whole year. That's my goal. I want to get healthy and make it hard for them to make a decision."
McDonald is coming off a season in which he suited up for four Major League organizations -- the Pirates, Indians, Phillies and Red Sox -- and was given three separate playoff shares at the end of the season.
Now, McDonald enters camp with a very simple scenario in front of him: Compete with Andrew Romine, who's out of options, for the utility-infield spot.
If he makes the team, it'll mark McDonald's 16th year in the Majors, most of which has come in the utility role the Angels are looking to fill. If he doesn't, he's unsure if he'll accept an assignment to the Minor Leagues.
"Given my age, I have two small kids at home, it wouldn't be ideal," said McDonald, a lifetime .235/.274/.327 hitter who batted .116 in 51 Major League games last year. "But I don't think I'll be able to answer that question truthfully until it's actually presented to me by my [general manager]. It's a tough question to answer. I don't really know."
Trout to stay connected to Pujols in batting order
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia reiterated Thursday that he prefers to keep Mike Trout and Albert Pujols connected in the lineup, which means the 2-3-4 spots figure to be Trout-Pujols-Josh Hamilton, respectively, and that a new leadoff man will have to emerge.
Kole Calhoun still looks like the leading candidate, though Erick Aybar is also an option. Scioscia isn't making any declaration before Spring Training starts.
"I think Kole's definitely a candidate," Scioscia said Thursday, just before his annual preseason meeting with the Angels' staff. "But whoever's hitting in front of Mike needs to be a player who first of all can take advantage of being challenged, and secondly bring some on-base [percentage] to be able to set the table and run at a decent speed where you're not clogging the bases up. Kole's definitely a candidate for that. That guy's going to have to hit his way on base."
In other words: Whoever bats in front of Trout can expect to get a lot of pitches to hit, because the last thing pitchers will want to do is walk the guy who's batting ahead of him.
Scioscia likes having Pujols behind Trout because it should diminish the amount of times Trout is intentionally walked, and because Pujols is the guy he wants up if Trout is given a free pass. Scioscia also likes having Trout bat second because of the RBI opportunities.
In 2012, while solely batting first, Trout had 135 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
In 2013, when he spent 18 games batting first, 89 games batting second and 50 games batting third after Pujols went down, Trout had 184 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
The biggest concern is the walks. Trout drew 110 of them last year, more than anyone in the American League and 43 more than in 2012. Scioscia wants to form his lineup in a way that will maximize the amount of pitches Trout gets to hit -- but he doesn't want the 22-year-old to change his approach.
"I don't think Mike needs to change a thing," Scioscia said. "Plate discipline is a gift, and he has it. The deep counts he runs into might lead to an extra strikeout here or there, but what it creates for what we do and the potential it has for us to grind out games is huge. And he's still be putting up numbers."
Iannetta's use of contacts helps him, Angels
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels catcher Chris Iannetta turned around his season down the stretch last year, batting .264/.366/.453 in the final two months and throwing out nine of the last 22 attempted basestealers.
A big reason for that: Contacts.
Iannetta has always had 20/20 vision, but right around late July, he noticed that the fingers that manager Mike Scioscia would put down from the dugout looked blurry, especially late in games. So, Iannetta went to the eye doctor and got fitted for his first pair of contacts, of minimal prescription that he only puts on for games -- and the 30-year-old believes they made a big difference.
"I started seeing the ball a lot better," Iannetta said Thursday morning, after undergoing his physical exam. "Even catching, [before contacts] I felt the ball was jumping on me. I was focusing so hard to find a release point and I wasn't reacting the way I know I can, and I didn't really know why.
"It wasn't a drastic thing. I'm still 20/20. But with contacts I get down to like 20/15."
• Angels first baseman Albert Pujols didn't want to comment when asked about Jack Clark on Thursday, saying: "You saw the statement. That's what it is. I don't need to talk about it." On Monday, Clark issued a public retraction of allegations he made on a St. Louis radio station claiming Pujols used performance-enhancing drugs. As a result, Pujols agreed to drop the defamation lawsuit he filed in October.
• Mike Scioscia saw Josh Hamilton last week and talked to him "pretty routinely" throughout the offseason. Asked how Hamilton looks after putting on an extra 30 pounds over the winter, the Angels' manager said: "I'm not going to say bigger; he looks healthier, stronger. No doubt there's a little different look that he has. … I'm very confident we're going to see a different Josh, particularly earlier in the year."
• Catcher Luis Martinez, a 28-year-old who compiled 32 Major League games with the Padres and Rangers from 2011-12, can opt out of his Minor League contract if he isn't on the active roster by June 15. Martinez projects to split time with Yorvit Torrealba behind the plate for Triple-A Salt Lake.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.