Mike Trout has one career start as the Angels’ number-two hitter.
Alberto Callaspo said he didn’t remember the last time he batted leadoff.
Yet that’s where they’ll be batting tonight against the Oakland A’s, and for the immediate future.
It was the first thing Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked about in his pregame media scrum. The first thing he said in response: “I think it’s just really a common sense move.”
Scioscia’s logic: He wants his three best hitters — Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — connected in the lineup. There are multiple ways of connecting the trio and he considered different combinations. Ultimately he wanted someone setting the table for Trout, not Trout setting the table for everyone else, while still keeping the reigning American League Rookie of the Year high in the lineup.
“We wanted to see if Mike in the one-hole was a total comfort zone,” Scioscia said. “We wanted to see if the loss of Torii would be absorbed and we could move on with a more situational look in the 2-hole as opposed to just lining them up. Not that that hasn’t happened, but all of us rally felt at some point Mike Trout is a guy we need to set the table for better and we can do a little better job of that putting a higher on-base (percentage) guy in front of him combined with some guys at the bottom of the order that will get on the order, if we put him in the 2-hole instead of the 1-hole.”
Callaspo’s .382 on-base percentage is third on the team behind Pujols and Howie Kendrick. Here’s the full lineup for tonight:
While the Trout-Pujols-Hamilton heart of the order might get legs, Callaspo’s time at the top could be short-lived. Scioscia wouldn’t rule out putting Erick Aybar into the leadoff slot once the shortstop returns from his bruised left heel. Aybar was feeling better Thursday and seems like a good bet to avoid the disabled list. “Hopefully we’re a matter of days from him getting back in the lineup,” Scioscia said.
The obvious knock on Callaspo batting first his is speed. He helped his cause by losing weight after showing up to camp roughly 18-20 pounds overweight. Still, he’s got all of 22 stolen bases to his credit in eight major-league seasons. Will he try to improve that total tonight? “I don’t know, maybe,” Callaspo said, smiling. “We’ll see what happens.”
While Scioscia has spoken often about moving Trout lower in the lineup, Callaspo said the manager never approached him about hitting leadoff before today. That’s probably the only “experimental” portion of the top of the Angels’ lineup. Get used to seeing Trout as the number-two hitter, followed by Pujols and Hamilton, as long as the three are healthy.
“If you’re not getting production from the leadoff guy, are you going to put that guy second now because he’s not productive in front of that group? We’ll find somebody getting on base in front of these guys, I guarantee you that,” Scioscia said.