Angels lineup shaping up with less than week to go before season opens

Johnny Giavotella likely wins the second-base job, and Taylor Featherston has edge for utility infield role

If the Angels' play at second base is not up to par in April and May, General Manager Jerry Dipoto said he would address any deficiency the way he did last season, when he upgraded a struggling bullpen.

There should be no shortage of trade options, including Chase Utley (Philadelphia), Aaron Hill (Arizona), Daniel Murphy (New York Mets) and Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati), but Dipoto is in no hurry to make a move.

With the season opener at Seattle less than a week away, Johnny Giavotella appears to have won the second-base job, and Rule 5 pick Taylor Featherston has the edge for the utility infield role. That would leave Josh Rutledge and Grant Green probably headed for triple-A Salt Lake.

"We felt pretty confident with this group of second basemen that one was going to click by the time we start the season," Dipoto said. "We're giving them that opportunity. If we need to address it as the season progresses, we will."

Giavotella has separated himself by hitting .349 (15 for 43) with four doubles, two triples and a homer in 21 games, but he's not as polished defensively as Rutledge, who is clearly pressing at the plate, with a .170 average and 14 strikeouts in 19 games.

It appears Green is being groomed for more of a utility role — he's played more innings in left field (24) this spring than he has at second (19), shortstop (14) and third base (nine), and he's played six innings at first.

None of the four second-base candidates is expected to be as productive or consistent as Howie Kendrick, a career .293 hitter who was traded to the Dodgers for 23-year-old left-hander Andrew Heaney in December. But they will be given a chance to grow into the job.

"You don't want to let someone struggle to the point where they're losing confidence, but you have to give them enough room and hope to find out what they're capable of," Dipoto said. "If you send them out there and stick a blindfold on them and put them up against a wall, it doesn't stand to benefit anyone.

"We can't say, 'Hey, in two weeks, in four weeks, if this isn't going well, we'll pull the plug.' That's more of a feel thing. We'll start the season with this group, and if we need to act, we will."

The right stuff

Jose Alvarez won't light up radar guns or buckle the knees of opposing hitters. The 5-feet-11, 180-pound left-hander's fastball ranges from 89 to 92 mph, and he mixes it with a changeup and slider.

But the 25-year-old Venezuelan has a feel for pitching that is best measured in results, and he appears to have earned a long-relief role in a season-opening eight-man bullpen with a 2.84 earned-run average in 6 1/3 innings this spring.

"We're definitely impressed with his stuff," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "His velocity is better, his slider is tighter. He looks much better than he did last year. He has enough to start, but his stuff definitely plays in a bullpen, both as a lefty specialist and a guy who can give you some length."

Alvarez, acquired from Detroit for infielder Andrew Romine last spring, was limited to seven games in 2014 because of bone chips in his elbow, which were surgically removed.

But he re-established himself in the Venezuelan winter league, going 6-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 19 games, seven of them starts, striking out 30 and walking 17 in 56 2/3 innings.

"The location of all my pitches was good, and I was pretty successful against left-handers," Alvarez said. "It was a big thing for me to pitch in Venezuela, to show that I'm healthy."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
54°