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Angels expect C.J. Cron to become a more consistent slugger

He looks a bit Paul Bunyanesque, standing 6 feet 4 and 235 pounds, his face partially hidden by a fresh beard.

Though his frame isn’t chiseled, the Angels look at his powerful physique and envision C.J. Cron crushing baseballs with the same ease the lumberjack once felled tall trees in American folklore.

Cron has given evidence of such power. He has reached double figures in home runs every season since his 2014 arrival in the big leagues.

Yet he has proven uncommonly streaky, and the Angels showed their lessening patience with his unpredictability when he got off to a slow start this season and they twice sent him down to the minors.

“His challenge is very clear, and he understands it,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s about consistency.

“When you swing the bat and you have his capabilities, it’s tough to go into those dormant 110-, 120-at-bat stretches where he was at the beginning of the year.”

When Cron was sent down for a second time on June 23, he was batting .212 with two home runs, 14 runs batted in and a .266 on-base percentage in 129 plate appearances.

Cron can be difficult to read behind his fairly monotone delivery, but he claims he held no animosity at being sent down, even the second time.

“I just play baseball, no matter where it’s at,” Cron said. “There’s too much stuff that happens like that. You can’t let it affect you. There’s no reason to be down — just keep playing and try to get back up.”

He returned to stay on July 7 and has been a different hitter since, one much more aligned with the player the Angels keep thinking they possess. In 189 plate appearances since coming back, he has hit .289 with 13 home runs, 38 RBI and a .344 on-base percentage.

Cron thinks his improved play is tied to increased playing time. He had been in something of a platoon with Luis Valbuena at first base, but since Yunel Escobar sustained an oblique injury Aug. 8, Valbuena has been the third baseman and first was left to Cron.

“Thankfully in the second half, I got a lot more at-bats, a lot more opportunities, and I’ve fared pretty well,” Cron said. “So hopefully we can just continue it and make a playoff push here.”

The Angels know how productive Cron can be when he’s on. But even with his second-half success, he still bats eighth against right-handers — almost as if there is more proving to be done.

“C.J. understands it,” Scioscia said. “When he went down, he went down with a purpose. He worked on a lot of stuff and came back and has been swinging the bat to his capabilities. C.J.’s challenge is going to be consistency. You really just can’t erase the downsides and say, ‘But look what he does when he swings it well.’

“He’s a guy that every game is a threat to break a game open. C.J.’s there right now, but that’s something that has to be a daily thing he brings into the game.”

Cron was at his best again Friday night, hammering a two-run homer against the Rangers that is making his overall season numbers look familiar.

He now has 15 home runs and 52 RBI on the season. Last season, he had 16 homers and 69 RBI, and in 2015, he had 16 home runs and 51 RBI.

Cron is 27, in his fourth season and should be in the prime of his career. He thinks he’s improving, even if his numbers have stayed in the same range.

The Angels look at the Bunyan frame, at his powering out a home run Friday, and think there is still more to be tapped, and they battle frustration over his inconsistency.

“Just because you see his potential, obviously from a coaching standpoint, it gets a little frustrating,” Scioscia said. “Everyone is going to have down times, but it’s like when he struggles, he really struggles.

“Once he figures it out, you have a guy who has the potential to hit 25 to 30 home runs and drive in a 100 runs a year. But he knows what his challenge is.”

Cron said he focuses less on some ultimate player he wants to become than the one he wants to be in his next trip to the plate.

“I don’t think any about the future,” he said. “It’s day by day, at-bat by at-bat, pitch by pitch. That’s where my mentality is. I don’t really think ahead, just take it day by day.”

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