5/4/2014 1:20 A.M. ET
Cron debuts as Freese injury leads to roster shakeup
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The Angels couldn't wait on David Freese's finger to heal without utilizing his roster spot, so they placed the veteran third baseman on the 15-day disabled list prior to Saturday's game against the Rangers.
And then they shook up the roster.
Up is power-hitting prospect C.J. Cron, who made his Major League debut at first base and in the No. 5 spot of the lineup -- with Albert Pujols getting moved to designated hitter roughly 90 minutes before game time.
Cron hit an RBI single in the first inning on the first big league pitch he saw, then added a double and a go-ahead RBI single to help lead the Angels to the 5-3 win.
Joining Cron on the roster was third baseman Luis Jimenez, who hit .260 in 34 games with the Angels last year.
Sent down to Triple-A was outfielder J.B. Shuck, the scrappy left-handed hitter who was batting .173 in his first 19 games.
"I feel we do need more right-handed infield depth with David out," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the game, "and we definitely feel that J.B. can benefit from going down there and just figuring some things out."
The Angels cleared a spot on the 40-man roster for Cron by outrighting reliever Yoslan Herrera off the 40-man, three days after optioning him to Triple-A. They then opened spots for Cron and Jimenez on the 25-man roster by sending Shuck down and placing Freese on the DL.
Freese suffered a small, non-displaced fracture in his right middle finger after getting hit by a fastball from Rangers starter Colby Lewis on Friday, but said Saturday that he's "pretty confident" he can be ready at or around the time he's eligible to be activated (May 18).
In the meantime, the right-handed-hitting Jimenez and the left-handed-hitting Ian Stewart figure to platoon at third base, with Jimenez batting eighth against left-hander Matt Harrison on Saturday. Grant Green batted ninth while making his Major League debut in left field, a position he figures to get most of his playing time at moving forward.
Cron, ranked No. 3 in the Angels' system by MLB.com, gives the Angels a right-handed-hitting option at DH and can also play first base if Pujols needs a day off his feet. The left-handed-hitting Raul Ibanez -- with a .149/.221/.299 slash line in his first 26 games -- will be an option at DH and left field.
In short, the lineup -- a lineup that's also without corner outfielders Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun -- will change frequently.
"C.J. had a terrific spring for us," Scioscia said of Cron pregame Saturday. "I think he's really found a comfort level the last couple years he's played, had a great [Arizona] Fall League, and spring-boarded it to a terrific Spring Training. He's off to a great start [in Triple-A], and hopefully he's going to give us a little boost right now, because, especially with David being out, we have a right-handed void."
Cron posted a 1.167 OPS in the Arizona Fall League, batted .292 in 12 Spring Training games, and had a .319/.369/.602 slash line in his first 28 games for Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast League.
After Friday night's game in Utah, the 24-year-old got called into the office and saw manager Keith Johnson and director of player development Bobby Scales standing stoically. Scales told Cron that his times to first base were a little slow and that he needed to work on it, to which Cron replied with "Yes, sir." Then they started cracking up, and Johnson broke the news.
"It was really cool," Cron said before his debut. "I didn't really know what to expect, honestly. It was really early in the season. But I was pleasantly surprised."
Freese thinks he'll be back when eligible
ANAHEIM -- The non-displaced fracture on David Freese's right middle finger, the result of a Colby Lewis fastball, landed him on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday.
But the veteran third baseman doesn't feel he'll be out much longer than two weeks.
Asked for his confidence level of being ready to return to the starting lineup by the time he's eligible, on May 18, Freese said: "Pretty high. You get in trouble throwing timetables out there, but that's what I hear."
Freese will have to wear a splint on his injured finger for the next couple days, but can do every baseball activity that doesn't involve his right hand -- including taking one-handed swings with his bottom hand, like Josh Hamilton is doing as he works his way back from surgery on his left thumb.
There was a slight chance Freese could've been ready in about a week, but the Angels couldn't afford to go that long without the roster spot.
"That's just the tough thing," Freese said. "With the 15-day DL, you have to make a choice. You can't wait around a week to really see. From what the doctors are saying, what they see, it's just one of those things where we'll get everything taken care of, and when it's tolerable, get back at it."
The decision will ultimately lie with the Angels' medical department, but Freese believes he can come back without going on a rehab assignment, "Because I can still take grounders, I can still run around, so the endurance factor is not going to be an issue," the 31-year-old said.
The injury comes as Freese was just starting to get hot at the plate, compiling six hits in his last 13 at-bats to raise his batting average to .202. But he believes he's figured something out that will allow him to pick up right where he left off.
"Early on, I was kind of forcing myself to stay so much inside the ball that I was overturning and I couldn't get the path that I normally like to the ball," Freese said. "Now, I feel more free up there. I'm seeing it and just putting good swings on baseballs that I know I can hit. Finding holes every now and then always helps, but I really got in a position to kind of just get my body free to attack the ball."
Calhoun eyeing mid-May rehab assignment
ANAHEIM -- Kole Calhoun continues to make steady progress in his return from a sprained right ankle.
The Angels' right fielder and leadoff hitter suffered the injury after crossing first base on April 15, and he is hopeful of starting a rehab assignment at the four-week mark, which would fall right around the time his team returns from a six-game road trip through Toronto and Philadelphia on May 15.
For now, Calhoun -- long removed from his days of having to wear a protective boot -- is playing catch, hitting off the tee and running with 55-percent body weight on a specialized treadmill.
"I think it's just going to come down to getting my feet back under me, and running and cutting and decelerating are going to be a challenge, when that comes," Calhoun said. "But it's getting better every day. I'm really optimistic right now. I'm hoping to lean more toward that four-week timetable, but it's really whatever my ankle can take. I think once I can run and slow down, I'm pretty sure I'll get the OK to start rehab games or something."
• Angels relievers Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett are inching closer to a return. De La Rosa is slated to start a rehab assignment with Salt Lake on Sunday, and Scioscia said he'll need at least two outings. Burnett looked "very strong" in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Saturday, and will pitch again on Monday, Scioscia added.
• Congested traffic is expected late Monday afternoon, with the Angels-Yankees game from Angel Stadium and the Kings-Ducks playoff hockey game at the neighboring Honda Center both taking place at 7 p.m. PT. The Anaheim Police Department has asked those who aren't going to either venue to seek alternate routes.
• Ernesto Frieri pitched in his first high-leverage situation during Saturday's 5-3 win -- turning in a 1-2-3 eighth inning, while striking out two batters -- eight days after being removed from the closer's role. Scioscia wouldn't guarantee that Frieri will continue to be the setup man, but said "Ernie's been slowly regaining his confidence and regaining where he needs to be. I think the matchups were good for Ernie in the eighth inning, and good for Joe [Smith] in the ninth inning."
• Pujols was moved from first base to designated hitter about 90 minutes prior to Saturday's game due to tightness near his hamstring area. Pujols will probably also DH on Sunday, but Scioscia said the ailment is "not anything we're very concerned about right now."
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.