6/19/2014 6:25 P.M. ET
Stream of righties keeping Cron on the pine
Promising right-handed hitter has primarily platooned with Ibanez
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The National League rules in Atlanta kept C.J. Cron out of the lineup this past weekend, and a stream of Indians right-handed starters prompted Angels manager Mike Scioscia to go with the left-handed-hitting Raul Ibanez on a daily basis. Suddenly, the still-developing Cron is adjusting to life as a part-time player.
"It's how it works," Cron said before Wednesday's rainout. "Obviously, I want to be in there as much as possible. But I'm not in the lineup, so I'll be ready in case a pinch-hit [opportunity] comes, or whatever."
Scioscia has continued to go with a strict platoon at designated hitter, starting Ibanez three straight times against righties, even though the 42-year-old carries a .153/.257/.258 slash line on the season and is 3-for-18 in his career against Justin Masterson, the Indians' starter on Thursday.
Scioscia pointed out that one of those three hits was a two-run triple on April 28. He also brought up the fact that Masterson has limited righties to a .630 OPS this season, and added that Ibanez "has had some good at-bats in this series," going 2-for-5 with a couple of walks and no strikeouts.
"I don't think you're going to look up tomorrow and see Raul hitting what he should with the production you would expect," said Scioscia, who had Ibanez as the designated hitter before Wednesday's rainout and put him at first base on Thursday. "But there's no doubt that he's making some strides in the batter's box and you're seeing better swings. The bottom line is production. Nobody understands that better than Raul. He knows that he needs to contribute and have better at-bats. Nobody is working harder at it than Raul, and we're very confident that he's going to contribute for us."
The question is: When will the right-handed-hitting Cron get playing time?
The 24-year-old had a .305/.329/.524 slash line as of June 4. But he has three hits and seven strikeouts in his past 20 at-bats, and he hasn't started since last Wednesday with the Angels mostly seeing righty starters. The Indians threw a righty in all three games this series, while the Rangers will start one lefty -- Joe Saunders on Friday -- in Anaheim this coming weekend. The Twins, who visit Angel Stadium for a three-game set starting Tuesday, have only righties in their rotation.
"There's a chance Cron will get some at-bats against righties, too," Scioscia said.
But for now, he waits, and the Angels face the dilemma of keeping Cron in the big leagues or sending him down to Triple-A so he can get consistent at-bats and continue to develop.
"Ever since I've been up here, I have kind of platooned," Cron said. "It hasn't switched yet. I come to the field every day as if I'm going to play. If I'm not in the lineup, I'll help the team later in the game."
Angels not going with one defined closer
CLEVELAND -- Mike Scioscia's closer has gone from Ernesto Frieri to Joe Smith to both to anybody's guess.
In Thursday's 10th inning, it was basically Cam Bedrosian, until he loaded the bases with one out and Frieri served up the walk-off grand slam to Nick Swisher in the Angels' 5-3 loss to the Indians.
"I don't think it's any different from what we talked about," Scioscia said when asked if Frieri is his closer. "What's different from matching up like we talked about?"
The major difference, of course, is that Bedrosian was used. That was partly because Smith had already pitched the ninth inning, but Scioscia's decision to initially go with a 22-year-old rookie -- one with electric stuff, but who also had given up six runs in 5 1/3 innings heading in -- was a strong indication that he's shying away from Frieri again.
"For Cam, it's an opportunity," Scioscia said. "He's got great stuff, and he just missed with some pitches today. I think that where we were, we felt very confident that Cam was going to make his pitches."
Frieri was temporarily demoted from the closer's role after giving up 12 runs in a 4 2/3-inning stretch from July 23 to Aug. 6 of last year, then suffered the same fate when he gave up four runs in the ninth inning in Washington on April 23.
The 28-year-old right-hander posted a 1.17 ERA over his next 15 appearances, but has been charged with eight earned runs in his last seven games -- a stretch that includes blowing a four-run lead in Atlanta on Saturday -- and now has a 5.83 ERA.
After Thursday's game, several Angels players, including Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, tried to console the dejected closer.
"I'm fighting, man," Frieri said. "I've been working, watching videos, asking questions. It seems like nothing goes my way. I'm trying to do my stuff. I go in with a positive mentality, go out there, try to help the team, and for some reason, everything goes wrong. I miss one pitch, in every outing I got hurt. A couple years ago, I missed a couple pitches over the middle, nothing happened. Now? Crazy. It's a little bit frustrating."
Sizzling month puts Trout in familiar territory
CLEVELAND -- There were questions about all the strikeouts, and also about the mini-slump he carried through the season's first month or so. And now, once again, Mike Trout is the game's best all-around player.
Heading into Thursday's series finale against the Indians, Trout led the Majors in the all-encompassing sabermetric stat, Wins Above Replacement, producing a score of 4.7, according to FanGraphs.com. Trout's score ranked just ahead of the 4.6 accumulated by Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Trout's slash line sat at .264/.363/.521 on May 17, with 53 strikeouts in 42 games. Since then, the 22-year-old is batting .396 with eight homers, 26 RBIs and just 17 strikeouts in 24 games, putting his slash line at .311/.397/.610 heading into Thursday. His 155 total bases -- second in the American League -- put him on pace for a career-high 355.
And by the end of the year, Trout will likely be off to the best start in baseball history.
Based on fWAR (FanGraphs WAR), Trout -- easily the Major League leader in 2012 and '13 -- ranks second behind Hall of Famer Ty Cobb through a player's age-22 season, with Cobb at 25.9 and Trout at 25.8. Trout is on pace to finish the year with a 10.9 fWAR, which would top his marks of 10.4 of '13 and 10.0 of '12.
To summarize, sabermetric statistics love Trout.
• Albert Pujols made his 16th start at designated hitter on Thursday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Pujols is fine and that it was planned ahead of time. Raul Ibanez started in his place at first place.
• The Angels agreed to terms with their sixth-round Draft pick, high-school right fielder Alex Abbott, for $375,000. Slot value for that pick -- 179th overall -- was $244,700.
• The game against the Tigers on Sunday, July 27, will start at 12:35 p.m. PT (it was originally TBD) because ESPN picked up Dodgers-Giants for Sunday Night Baseball. The early start time could facilitate the Indians and Angels making up Wednesday's rained-out game in Cleveland the following Monday, currently an off-day for both clubs.
• Outfielder Brennan Boesch, signed to a Minor League contract over the offseason, hit three home runs for Triple-A Salt Lake during a doubleheader on Wednesday, putting his Pacific Coast League OPS at 1.034 this season.
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.