Rutledge, utility infielder Grant Green, third baseman prospect Kyle Kubitza and pitcher Andrew Heaney were optioned to triple-A Salt Lake after Friday night’s 6-0 exhibition victory over the Dodgers, assuring that Rule 5 pick Taylor Featherston will open the season as the team’s utility infielder.
The Angels also reassigned outfielder/first baseman Mark Krauss and left-handed reliever Scott Snodgress to the minor leagues, all but assuring that outfielder/first baseman Efren Navarro will win the last bench spot.
Rutledge had the most big-league experience of the second-base candidates, batting .259 in 266 games for the Colorado Rockies in the last three years, but he hit just .189 (10 for 53) with 14 strikeouts and four walks and was clearly pressing at the plate.
Johnny Giavotella won the second-base job by hitting .315 and playing just-good-enough defense, and Featherston, who has not played above the double-A level, won the backup job with his strong defense at all three infield positions.
“Josh is a much better player than he showed this spring,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We know that, and we have a lot of confidence he’s going to get back to where he needs to be. He just needs at-bats. He never got on track. He never felt comfortable in the batter’s box from the get-go.”
Scioscia said Rutledge will play mostly shortstop and second base with an occasional start at third for Salt Lake. Green will stick to the super utility role he had all spring, playing left field and all four infield positions.
“I think as we start season, the best course of action with Josh is to let him find his swing, because when he does, he can hit,” Scioscia said. “He’s a good player, and he’s going to help us at some point once he gets his game together.”
Heaney, acquired from Miami via the Dodgers for second baseman Howie Kendrick in December, entered camp competing for the fifth rotation spot, but he struggled in Arizona, and his demotion was essentially sealed when the Angels decided to open the season with four starting pitchers.
But the left-hander put himself in a much better position to be recalled for an April 14 game in Texas, when the Angels will need a fifth starter for the first time, with 5 1/3 innings of no-hit ball in which he struck out three and walked three Friday night. He closed the spring with a 1-2 record and 7.03 earned-run average.
“I want to show these guys what I can do, whether I’m on the team or not,” Heaney, 23, said. “Yeah, I’d love to make the team. That’s everybody’s goal. But I know if I can go out there and do what I did tonight and build on that, I’ll be here eventually. I fully believe in myself.”
Heaney worked with pitching coach Mike Butcher and special instructor Marcel Lachemann this past week to correct a flaw in his delivery, which had too much of an across-the-body motion. He struggled in the first inning Friday night, hitting a batter and walking two, but found his tempo over the next 4 1/3 innings.
“Sometimes it’s not a quick or easy fix, but after that first inning, he made some adjustments in all the areas that are important,” Scioscia said. “You can see why we’re excited about him. He really pitched well after that first inning. We expect to see him back.”