3/12/2014 9:13 P.M. ET
Calhoun resisting temptation of aggression
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- In case there was ever any doubt, Kole Calhoun is the Angels' leadoff hitter. He's started in nine of the days the Angels have had a Spring Training game, and he's led off in all of them. And every single time he has, he's taken the very first pitch of the game.
That's by design.
"I'm not scared to take a walk, to work a count, so I really don't see any advantage of going out hacking," Calhoun said. "I want to let those guys see how a guy's working early in a game and set the table for the guys behind me."
Calhoun is a naturally aggressive hitter, though. He's a run-producer, not necessarily a table-setter. In 20 of his 222 plate appearances in the Majors last year, Calhoun swung at the first pitch, and batted .550 with three home runs.
But batting in front of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton requires you to make significant sacrifices.
"That's where you kind of get caught in the middle," Calhoun said, "because I do like to be aggressive. But now you have to kind of take a step back and see pitches. I don't want to say I want to change something, but, again, you have to get on base."
Calhoun batted .282/.347/.462 down the stretch last year, impressive enough to make center fielder Peter Bourjos expendable and give him the everyday job in right field.
Calhoun isn't the prototypical, all-speed, slap-hitting leadoff hitter -- he might be better than that. He's got decent speed and a nice approach at the plate, but he also supplies plenty of power. And he can expect to see a lot of strikes with the best player on the planet batting behind him.
"I'll see a ton of strikes, for sure," Calhoun said, "but it's way different at the leadoff spot, because how many times are guys going up there hacking at the first pitch? I haven't swung at a first pitch yet, and it's always like a get-me-over fastball or something. Now you're down 0-1, now they can flip a curveball and I'm down 0-2, and I still don't really have an idea of how these guys want to pitch me after my first at-bat. It might take two or three."
Santiago throwing his screwball for strikes
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Hector Santiago pitched well and got his work in, but a precious streak came to an end in a 12-2 win over the Brewers on Wednesday.
He threw his first screwball for a ball.
"But it was a good one, man," Santiago said after giving up two runs in 4 1/3 innings to put his spring ERA at 1.64. "It kept its path. It was on the right road. It was definitely a great chase pitch. We almost got [Mark Reynolds] on that check swing [in the second inning]. That was a great pitch for me."
Santiago wants to throw his screwball a lot more often this season, even though he's still a lot more comfortable with his fastball, changeup and slider. The key for the 26-year-old left-hander is to show that he can throw it for a strike.
And by his own count, he's 16-for-17.
"Hey I'm just throwing, man," Santiago said, smiling. "Got it going, got it going."
Umpires to be tighter with transfer rule
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tuesday's overturned call -- the first ever under the expanded-replay rules -- introduced Angels manager Mike Scioscia to a new wrinkle, one in which umpires will be more strict than ever on the transfer call.
With one out in the eighth, Andrew Romine recorded a force out at second base before bobbling a potential double-play ball. But Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon challenged the call by second-base umpire Chad Whitson, and the review reversed it to an out.
After the game, Scioscia spent about 15 minutes talking with umpires, particularly crew chief Dale Scott, and got word that the ball must be completely out of the glove and in the bare hand before the bobble in order for it to be ruled an out.
"The way it was called on [Romine] yesterday has never been called that tight in 40 years of baseball," Scioscia said. "I mean, the ball was clearly closed by his glove when it was coming out to be flipped. That's always been a guideline for a transfer beginning."
The tricky part about the way that rule is enforced now, Scioscia said, is that "there's more leeway in the neighborhood call now as far as an infielder being on the bag on a good throw, but they're tighter on the transfer. If that balances into maybe more time to get to the ball, we'll see. I don't know."
More stringent enforcement of the rule will no doubt lead to middle infielders being more cognizant of securing the ball when turning double plays. But John McDonald, who has some of the quickest hands in baseball, doesn't think it should change the mechanics of the play.
"You still have to turn the double play," McDonald said. "You have to get it out of your glove. You don't really catch it. You deflect it into your bare hand. ... When you catch things in slow motion, everything looks easy. Unfortunately that's what this is coming to."
Aybar making effort to practice patience, take walks
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Erick Aybar drew seven walks in his first eight Spring Training games, which is pretty good for a guy who has averaged one walk every five and a half games throughout his career -- and no fluke, if you ask the Angels' speedy shortstop.
"I want to take more walks this year," Aybar said in Spanish on Wednesday. "I want to see the ball more, make the pitcher throw more strikes."
One-hundred and eighty-nine qualified hitters have a better plate-appearances-per-walk ratio than Aybar since he became an everyday player five years ago. The most he's ever drawn in a season is 35 in 2010, which was tied for 253rd in the Majors. And because of that, Aybar's career on-base percentage is only .317 -- pretty low for a guy who has good bat control, is a great bunter and sports above-average speed.
The question is: Is Aybar, 30 years old and entering his ninth season with the Angels, too late in his career to change his approach?
"I don't think so," he said. "You learn more and more the longer you're in this game. When you're looking for a pitch and you don't get it, you take it. That's what I've been doing. Just showing more patience, and letting the pitcher throw."
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.