Another day, another cleanup hitter for the offensively challenged Angels, who will turn to long-time leadoff man Kole Calhoun in an effort to add some punch to the middle of the order in the opener of a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.
Calhoun started five games in the fourth spot in late April and early May before returning to the top of the order, but his move to cleanup on Monday — and Erick Aybar’s move to the leadoff spot — could be more than a temporary thing.
Manager Mike Scioscia said the left-handed-hitting Calhoun, who is batting .302 with three home runs and 18 runs batted in, will remain in the fourth spot against right-handed and left-handed pitchers, at least for the foreseeable future.
“We’re going to ride this out,” Scioscia said. “Kole’s splits against right-handers and left-handers are pretty good.”
Aybar is a career .274 hitter with a .314 on-base percentage in 243 games in the leadoff spot. His aggressive approach and reluctance to work counts would not seem to be a great fit for leadoff, but he’s been hot of late, hitting .417 in his last 13 games, and is the best leadoff option with Calhoun hitting fourth.
“I think it’s a move we need to make to try to get somebody behind Albert [Pujols] that’s swinging the bat better,” Scioscia said. “As much as we really like Kole in the leadoff spot and in front of Mike [Trout], I think with what we’re presented with right now, this just makes the most sense.
“Guys have had a lot of time to get into their game and aren’t there yet, so we need to start to take a little pressure off our pitching staff. These guys have been phenomenal. We need to score some runs earlier in games.”
Aybar has batted fifth for most of the season, but he moved into the fourth spot against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday and Sunday. Johnny Giavotella was moved from the fifth spot back to the ninth spot, giving the Angels on-base potential at the bottom of the order. Scioscia doesn’t want the switch-hitter to change his approach in the leadoff spot.
“What Erick doesn’t bring in patience, working counts, he brings in just athleticism,” Scioscia said. “And he still gets on base at a rate that hopefully will set the table for Mike and Albert moving forward.
“We also have Johnny pushed back to ninth to try to connect him with Mike. Hopefully, there will be some table-setting there and we’ll get to the big guys in our lineup.”
Monday could provide a good opportunity for the Angels offense to break out. The Blue Jays made a pitching change and will start 30-year-old journeyman right-hander Todd Redmond, who has allowed eight earned runs in 4 1/3 major league innings and seven earned runs in 14 minor league innings this season.