Sports Angels

Grant Green's latest work station with Angels is third base

Angels' Grant Green plays third base in the majors for the first time
Angels defeat Twins, 6-2, for fifth victory in a row

Grant Green glanced at the lineup card on his way into the Angels clubhouse Wednesday and saw he'd be making his first big league start at third base. There were no double-takes, no raised eyebrows.

"Another day," Green said, "another position."

A middle infielder by trade, Green has started 15 games this season in left field, a position he never played in the big leagues before but one he has become proficient at.

When Albert Pujols was pulled from Friday night's game because of lower-back spasms, Green played four innings at first base, a position he played in the minor leagues only five times in five years.

So third base wasn't about to faze Green, the former USC standout who was drafted by Oakland in 2009 as a shortstop and also played second base and center field in the A's system.

"I've been doing early work every day at third, and I'm comfortable there, I feel good," Green, 26, said. "It's more of a reaction position. There's not much thinking."

The keys, Green said, would be communicating with infield coach Alfredo Griffin about positioning and shortstop Erick Aybar about when off-speed pitches would be thrown.

"I want to be in the right spots, depending on the hitter, and react to wherever the pitch is thrown," Green said. "It should be good."

It was fine. Green drove in the first run in the Angels' 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins with a second-inning sacrifice fly and fielded three chances cleanly, not a game that will get a bucket of Gatorade dumped over your head.

But it was another in a string of solid performances that has left Green with a .324 average in 26 games and prompted many to clamor for Green to replace struggling third baseman David Freese or at least get more playing time there.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Green started Wednesday because Freese's left elbow was sore from getting hit by a pitch Tuesday and that Freese, acquired from St. Louis in the off-season, would still get "the lion's share" of starts at third base.

Since returning May 20 from a three-week stint on the disabled list because of a broken finger, Freese hasn't raised his average above .231. He is batting .226 with a .305 on-base percentage, .282 slugging percentage, two home runs, five doubles, 18 runs batted in, 59 strikeouts and 19 walks in 55 games.

The Angels don't need Freese to reprise his 2011 postseason, when he hit .444 (20 for 45) with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 12 games to win National League Championship Series and World Series most-valuable-player honors.

But the Angels did expect Freese to produce something closer to his 2012 (.293, 30 home runs, 79 RBIs) and 2013 (.262, nine home runs, 60 RBIs) seasons in St. Louis.

"I think he's hit the ball much better than some of his numbers show; he's had a lot of hard-hit outs," Scioscia said. "What David gives you is that great at-bat with guys in scoring position. We're starting to see a little bit more of that."

Those "great" at-bats haven't yielded much. Freese is hitting .170 (nine for 53) with 18 strikeouts and five walks with runners in scoring position.

"I don't think he's hit stride or a found a comfort level of what he did a couple of years ago — that hasn't materialized," Scioscia said. "But he's giving us good at-bats, and if he can get close to where we project him to be, he's going to be a huge boost to our lineup."

Green will continue to scrounge for playing time and try to accept his role as a utility man, which can be difficult for a player his age, one who aspires to be a regular.

"You're always worried about moving a guy around," Scioscia said. "But sometimes when a guy is trying to make footprints in the major leagues, this is part of the process, and Grant will do anything to get at-bats."

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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