Maicer Izturis will lead off for Angels ... when he is healthy
Manager Mike Scioscia made it clear before the Angels' first workout for pitchers and catchers Monday that Maicer Izturis is his top choice to lead off. Now all the team has to do is find a way to keep Izturis on the field ... and to find a position for him.
Izturis went on the disabled list three times last season because of a variety of injuries and was limited to 61 games. The switch-hitting infielder hit .250 with three homers and 27 runs batted in, a far cry from his superb 2009 season, when he hit .300 with eight homers and 65 RBIs in 114 games.
The oft-injured Izturis' inability to stay on the field, combined with Brandon Wood's struggles, forced the Angels to trade for third baseman Alberto Callaspo last July. This spring, Callaspo and Wood are both in camp competing for the third-base job, Howie Kendrick appears entrenched at second, and Erick Aybar is at shortstop.
Izturis, who has been on the DL nine times since the start of the 2005 season, is the best-suited player to lead off among the Angels' candidates -- he has a .340 career on-base percentage, compared to Aybar's .318. Izturis can play all three infield positions, so he can spell Kendrick and Aybar on the days he isn't playing third base. That, of course, is assuming he is healthy.
"When he's in the lineup, he will be leading off," Scioscia said. "With Bobby Abreu hitting second, that's as good a one-two punch as you can have."
The Boston Red Sox would disagree. They will probably feature Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford at the top of their lineup. But a healthy Izturis could make a big difference for the Angels, who ranked 27th in all of baseball with a .311 team on-base percentage last season and scored 202 fewer runs than they did in 2009.
"We hope Maicer gets enough games to contribute and take the pressure off the other guys to lead off," Scioscia said.
-- Mike DiGiovanna in Tempe, Ariz.
Photo: Maicer Izturis. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times