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Struggling Raul Ibanez yields Angels' cleanup spot to C.J. Cron

BaseballSportsMajor League BaseballRaul IbanezLos Angeles AngelsNew York MetsDavid Phelps
C.J. Cron is taking over the Angels' cleanup spot from DH Raul Ibanez

In his third big league game, C.J. Cron will bat cleanup for the Angels against the New York Yankees and right-hander David Phelps on Monday night in Angel Stadium.

That’s great for Cron, the 24-year-old slugger who was called up from triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday, but it does not bode well for Raul Ibanez, the 41-year-old designated hitter who has been a middle-of-the-order mainstay against right-handers but is in danger of losing at-bats if his struggles continue.

The left-handed-hitting Ibanez has a .144 average and 30 strikeouts in 90 at-bats. He has driven in 17 runs with only 13 hits, including a game-tying three-run homer in the ninth inning against the New York Mets on April 12 and a game-winning three-run double in the eighth inning against Washington on April 21, but is hitless in his last 14 at-bats.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Ibanez “is going to play,” but after Cron had five hits and two runs batted in in his first two games, “we’re going to find room in our lineup for guys who are swinging the bat well."

Ibanez understood.

“Shoot, I wouldn’t put me in right now, either,” he said after taking early batting practice Monday. “I’ll be ready if they need me.”

Ibanez said he feels good physically, and he has actually looked good in the four games he has played left field, making a leaping catch at the wall Sunday against the Texas Rangers.

“That part is frustrating because I do feel very good,” he said. “But that doesn’t help us put runs on the board. The production has to be there. I’m not happy with where I’m at. I’m definitely disappointed with how I’ve performed. I’m going to keep fighting, grinding, and working to swing my way out of this.”

The Angels are trying to be patient with Ibanez because he has a .756 career OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) percentage in April, his lowest of any month. Ibanez had 29 homers and 65 RBIs for Seattle last season.

“He’s never been a guy who has lit it up in April, but once he finds his timing, it’s there for a long time,” Scioscia said. “He’s trying to find his rhythm in the box. Sometimes he’s out front, sometimes he’s a little behind, sometimes he’s swinging at some pitches out of the zone.

“There’s a lot of factors you can point to as to why he is struggling. All that being said, his production numbers are still good, the number of guys he’s driven in. He’s hit some key home runs for us. It’s definitely in there. He’ll find it.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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