If your job was threatened by a young hotshot, would you give pointers to the kid who could push you out the door?
Many would grapple with that question, but not Angels designated hitter Raul Ibanez, who has taken one road during his 17-year big-league career — the high one — and is not about to veer from it now, even as young slugger C.J. Cron has emerged as a more dangerous hitter.
"One of my pleasures in life is helping people," Ibanez said before the Angels' 11-3 loss Saturday night to the Oakland Athletics. "As human beings, we have a need and a longing to help others, it's how God created us. And C.J. is a great kid, a great hitter.
"I'm a big fan of his as a player and person."
Cron, a 24-year-old first baseman, hadn't spent much time as a DH before the Angels called him up from triple A on May 3. Ibanez, who turns 42 on Monday, has helped ease the transition to a role young players often struggle to grasp.
"I've picked his brain, and he's helped by showing me what he does to stay focused, to be prepared for every at-bat," Cron said. "Ever since spring training, Raul has been awesome. You can talk to him about anything, and he'll help you no matter what."
The right-handed-hitting Cron has been such a quick study, he has put the struggling Ibanez's job in jeopardy. Cron began Saturday with a .319 average, .580 slugging percentage, three home runs, 11 runs batted in and only 11 strikeouts in 69 at-bats over 22 games.
He was batting .409 (nine for 22) with runners in scoring position. Though he has been part of a DH platoon with Ibanez, he has hit right-handers (.324 in 34 at-bats) better than left-handers (.314 in 35 at-bats). Cron homered, tripled and hit two doubles against right-handers in recent games.
"I feel good, and I'm seeing the ball well," Cron said. "We've been winning, so that makes everything more fun. It helps keep me calm and comfortable."
Ibanez is batting .153 with a .268 on-base percentage, .282 slugging percentage, three home runs, 20 RBIs and 41 strikeouts, and the playing time he has lost to Cron and Grant Green is making it difficult to find his rhythm at the plate.
"That doesn't even factor into my mindset," Ibanez said. "It doesn't matter if you play every day or every three days, the job is still the same. Be ready, stay ready."
Asked whether he remained confident in his ability to rebound from his sluggish start, Ibanez said, "Why wouldn't I be? You don't just lose your ability."
With cleanup batter Josh Hamilton expected back Tuesday from left-thumb injuries, there has been speculation that Ibanez might be released so the Angels could keep Cron and Green, who took a .368 average into Saturday's game.
But Manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday that Ibanez, who hit .242 with 29 home runs and 65 RBIs for Seattle last season, will remain with the club when Hamilton is activated.
"We want to give Raul every chance to get productive, and as long as he's making progress and contributing, we want to keep nurturing that," Scioscia said. "Cron and Green have earned at-bats because they've been very productive. But we feel Raul is part of the solution, and we'd like to play that out."
Parting with Ibanez now would sap the Angels of much-needed organizational depth from the left side.
Cron and Green both have minor league options, so either can be sent to tripleA without having to pass through waivers when Hamilton returns.
But if Ibanez, who is signed to a one-year, $2.75-million contract that includes incentives that could push his salary to $5 million, is still struggling at the All-Star break, the Angels might have no choice but to release him.
"There's not a calendar where you can put a red mark on a date," Scioscia said, when asked how much longer he could continue to play Ibanez.
"As much as he can contribute, we want to let it play out until there's a decision to be made.
"Right now, I think we're doing fine with the way we're mixing and matching. And as Josh gets back and there's not as much pressure on Raul to hit in the middle of the order, hopefully he can benefit by hitting in a different neighborhood."