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Angels' Kole Calhoun is proving himself worthy of a full-time role

Los Angeles AngelsSportsBaseballCollin CowgillOakland AthleticsMike TroutMike Scioscia
Kole Calhoun has shared playing time with Collin Cowgill
Kole Calhoun is hitting .304 with a .364 on-base percentage, .536 slugging percentage, 10 homers and 25 RBIs

Managers don't like to tinker with platoons that are working, but sometimes players can mash their way into full-time roles, as Kole Calhoun is doing with the Angels.

Calhoun has shared right field — and the leadoff spot — with Collin Cowgill, whose .837 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handers is one reason the Angels have a much better record against left-handed starters this season (20-14) than they did last season (18-26).

But the left-handed-hitting Calhoun has been on a tear since May 29, hitting .367 (47 for 128) in 36 games, including a four-hit night Thursday, and scoring a major league-high 36 runs in that span.

Calhoun had a modest game by his recent standards — a single in four at-bats — in Friday night's 3-0 victory over the Texas Rangers in Globe Life Park, the Angels' 17th win in 21 games, moving them 2 1/2 games behind the Oakland A's.

But Calhoun is hitting .304 with a .364 on-base percentage, .536 slugging percentage, 10 homers — third most on the team behind Mike Trout and Albert Pujols — and 25 runs batted in for the season.

"I don't know if there's a hotter player in our league right now than Kole Calhoun," said Manager Mike Scioscia. "He's seeing the ball well. He's swinging the bat well."

Well enough to be the team's full-time right fielder and leadoff man, regardless of the opposing pitcher? Calhoun, 26, singled off left-handed relievers Aaron Poreda on Thursday and Neal Cotts on Friday to raise his average against left-handers to .289, still a little shy of Cowgill's .308 mark.

But Calhoun led off against Toronto's J.A. Happ on Monday, his first start against a left-hander since May 31, and Scioscia hinted Friday that Calhoun probably will get more starts against left-handers.

"If Kole is swinging to his potential, then he's not necessarily a guy you would platoon," Scioscia said. "He might do it against a real tough left-hander, but he's hung in there really well against left-handed pitching."

Entering Friday, Calhoun, who was sidelined five weeks of April and May because of a right-ankle strain, was the only leadoff batter in baseball who was hitting .300 with 10 homers, a testament to his strength — he is a powerfully built 5 feet 9 and 200 pounds — and his supreme confidence in the box.

"This game will drag you down and chew you up if you don't go out there with the confidence that you can play it," Scioscia said. "Kole has had some dry spells, and he got hurt, but he has come back and got into his game. He feels it inside. He knows what he can do, and he's given us a big boost."

So did Cowgill, who filled in so admirably for Calhoun that Calhoun couldn't gripe about yielding playing time to Cowgill.

"It's always tough when you feel like you're playing well and you're sitting, but I'm not going to say it's totally frustrating because Cowgill has been doing a heck of a job," Calhoun said.

"If it's going to be a platoon, that's a darn good one. He's a great player. That's been the way the outfield has been for a while. We have a lot of good players, and there's only three spots out there."

Some Dodgers chafed at the prospect of not playing every day when the team had four healthy outfielders — Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford — in April, but there is no such friction among the Angels in the outfield.

"This team is about winning," Calhoun said. "You can't be greedy. When someone is bickering about the lineup, about not playing, I think that's kind of selfish. Everyone is pulling for each other. It's not, 'I should be doing this, he should be doing that.'

"If I'm in the lineup, I'm going to do it that day. If Collin is in the lineup, he's going to do it. We're not going to start some rivalry or talk about who should be playing. We're a team, and that's how it has to be."

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna

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