Sports

Matt Long is making a strong bid for outfield job with Angels

BaseballSportsProfessional BaseballLos Angeles AngelsHector SantiagoJ.B. ShuckMike Scioscia

TEMPE, Ariz. — Angels farm director Bobby Scales has a nickname for players like Matt Long, a 26-year-old outfielder who does several things well but not well enough to be tabbed a sure-fire major league prospect.

"I call them Novocain guys," Scales said. "Is it a quick fix? No. But if you give it time, you will get results. His game grows on you. He's not going to light up a tool sheet, but the guy just helps you win games."

Long has opened eyes this spring, collecting two more hits and making a diving catch of Scooter Gennett's drive to left-center field in the ninth inning of the Angels' 12-2 split-squad exhibition victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday. He has a .536 average (15 for 28) with five doubles in 11 games.

Long, who played at Santa Clara University, is still a longshot to make the team, but his surge has pushed him into the conversation with J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill for a reserve outfield spot.

That he started with the rest of the Angels regulars at home Wednesday, and played all three outfield positions, seemed significant. Most minor league players ride the bus for split-squad games.

"Honestly, I'm just happy to be in the lineup, home or away," Long said. "I'm seeing the ball well, and I'm really comfortable at the plate right now. The goal is to stand out, to show you play the game the right way. Everything else is out of my control."

Long, who bats left-handed and throws right-handed, split the last two seasons between double A and triple A, hitting a combined .293 with a .371 on-base percentage, .471 slugging percentage, 14 home runs, 29 doubles, eight triples and 71 runs batted in in 132 games in 2013.

Long can also play second base, where he appeared at in 84 of 125 games in 2012.

"He's definitely adequate at second, and he's a very good outfielder," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "That versatility is exciting and will definitely help his prospects of making the team."

Scales said Long reminds him a lot of Shuck, the surprise winner of a reserve spot last spring who received rookie-of-the-year votes after hitting .293 in 129 games.

"He doesn't do anything exceptional, but he does everything pretty good," Scales said. "And if you do everything pretty good and you're in the right spot, you can end up in the big leagues."

Delay of game

An eight-run second inning in which the Angels pounded out seven hits and sent 13 batters to the plate against Milwaukee presented a unique challenge for Angels left-hander Hector Santiago, who was acquired in December from a Chicago White Sox team that lost 99 games in 2013.

"I did some pull-ups in the dugout, went into the tunnel and threw against the net trying to stay loose," Santiago said. "Last year when I was pitching, we didn't have many big innings, so it's been a while.

"Now I know what it feels like to sit down for so long, and it seems like we're going to do that a lot. I'll take 40-minute innings all the time, as long as we're scoring some runs."

Santiago gave up two runs and five hits, struck out six and walked one in 41/3 innings. He threw 83 pitches, his last 13 during a strikeout of Gennett for the first out of the fifth inning.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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BaseballSportsProfessional BaseballLos Angeles AngelsHector SantiagoJ.B. ShuckMike Scioscia
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