C.J. Cron has been mothballed for the last week and a half, starting only two of the Angels’ last 10 games, raising the question of whether the struggling first baseman and designated hitter would be better off returning to triple A, where he could play every day in an effort to regain his stroke.
“If you’re getting at-bats at the major league level, you don’t have to get them for seven [straight] days,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “But if you’re getting them one day a week, then there’s a discussion of what’s best for the team and what’s best for the player. C.J. has gotten enough at-bats to where if he’s swinging like he can, he’d be contributing. But he hasn’t found that swing yet.”
The right-handed-hitting Cron tore up the Cactus League in 26 exhibition games, hitting .413 with a 1.165 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, three homers and 16 runs batted in, making consistent contact, showing excellent plate coverage and driving the ball to all fields.
With left fielder Josh Hamilton on the disabled list, Cron opened the season as the team’s primary DH, but he went hitless in his first 13 at-bats over four games. With the exception of a three-hit game on April 24 and a four-hit game on April 26, both against Texas, he has not been very productive.
It’s not for lack of opportunity. Cron has started 25 of 42 games on the season and is batting .200 with one homer, six RBIs, 22 strikeouts and two walks in 95 at-bats. He’s hitting .294 (10 for 34) against left-handers but has looked overmatched against right-handers, hitting .148 (nine for 61).
Cron’s role has been reduced because the Angels are in a stretch during which they are facing eight straight right-handed pitchers, and Scioscia has started the left-handed-hitting Marc Krauss in seven of the last 10 games.
The slick-fielding and left-handed-hitting first baseman Efren Navarro, who is at triple-A Salt Lake and hit .245 in 159 big-league at-bats last season, would be a natural replacement for Cron. Or, with Krauss able to play first base, the outfield and DH, the Angels could recall another position player.
“Obviously, he’s not as comfortable in the batter’s box as he was in the spring … and he wasn’t able to carry that same production into the regular season,” Scioscia said of Cron. “Against some left-handers, he’s getting more comfortable and getting some looks, but he’s still searching for that good balance.”