Kole Calhoun made sure to procure a lineup card from the three-game weekend series in Milwaukee, not because he went five for 10 with a home run and four runs batted in for the Angels, but for the lineup spot he produced those numbers in: cleanup.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Calhoun didn’t even join the Angels until July 28. He was expected to make the team as a reserve outfielder/first baseman but hit so poorly in spring training (.174) that he opened the season at triple-A Salt Lake, where an early April wrist injury sidelined him for six weeks.
Back then, the last place Calhoun figured he’d be in late August would be in the fourth spot of a lineup that featured sluggers Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton and that was expected to vault the Angels into World Series contention.
But injuries to Pujols and Hamilton and Trumbo’s ongoing struggles prompted Manager Mike Scioscia to move Calhoun to the cleanup spot last Friday, and the 25-year-old redhead proved worthy.
Calhoun’s big series helped the Angels to a three-game sweep of the Brewers. Though Hamilton’s return bumped him to the fifth spot Monday night, Calhoun was still a factor, hitting a two-out, run-scoring single in the third inning to snap a 1-1 tie in an eventual 11-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. That gave the Angels their ninth win in 10 games.
Calhoun has gone eight straight games with an RBI, the longest such streak in the American League this season, and is batting .265 with five homers and 17 RBIs in just 33 games. He is 11 for 30 (.367) with runners in scoring position.
“Offense comes in all forms -- some guys bring power, some bring more situational hitting,” Scioscia said. “Kole, I think, is hopefully going to be a nice blend. He brings some slugging percentage but also understands the situational game.”
Calhoun’s performance over the last five weeks has probably raised his stock in the eyes of the Angels executives. The demotion to triple-A, a gut-check of sorts, and his April injury, which forced him to shorten his swing a bit, actually helped.
“I didn’t have a good spring, and I knew there was stuff I needed to work on,” Calhoun said. “I didn’t even necessarily want to break camp with the team after a spring like that. It was good to go back down. It allowed me to redefine my game.”
“My approach, my mechanics, a lot of things,” Calhoun said. “Once you start struggling, you start worrying about everything. You think everything is going wrong, so you try to change things you don’t need to change. I had to get back to playing the way I know I can play, and going to triple-A helped me do that.”
Scioscia has noticed a difference.
“When a player struggles and doesn’t use that experience to get better, that’s a shame,” the manager said. “Kole made some adjustments. The injury was part of it, and so was his horrendous spring. I think he looked in the mirror and said, I have to make some changes.’”