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Wood moves to third base

Times Staff Writer

The long-anticipated move of Brandon Wood from shortstop to third base will officially begin today when the Angels start working their top prospect at the corner, a move that could hasten the 22-year-old’s ascent to the big leagues and eventually provide a jolt to the Angels lineup.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday the switch is not necessarily permanent, that the Angels have not given up on Wood as a shortstop.

But with Wood’s size and power projecting as well at third, with the organization stocked with far more capable shortstops than third basemen, and with the Angels offense always in need of power, the timing appears right for the transition.

“This is for our benefit and Brandon’s benefit,” Scioscia said. “If it works out and he can play third, to have that kind of bat coming up could help us....

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“We’re comfortable with his ability at shortstop, but as you get up that funnel toward the big leagues, a lot of times you have to become versatile to get to where you want to be.”

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Wood batted .321 with 43 home runs, 51 doubles and 115 runs batted in for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2005 and .276 with 25 homers, 42 doubles and 83 RBIs for double-A Arkansas in 2006.

But he was about to hit a logjam. Slick-fielding triple-A shortstop Erick Aybar might be ready for the big leagues; Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera has two years left on his contract, and Maicer Izturis and Chone Figgins can play the position.

Figgins will open the season at third, but if Wood shows in exhibition games that he can handle the position, he’ll probably start the season as the triple-A third baseman.

If he excels at Salt Lake, he would be a candidate for a promotion.

“The ball comes at you at a different angle, and the game comes at you a lot quicker,” said Wood, whose third base experience is limited to a few rookie league games.

“But wherever they need me, I’m open to it.”

Defensive growth won’t be Wood’s only focus. He led the Texas League with 149 strikeouts (with 54 walks) in 453 at-bats last season and had 128 strikeouts and 48 walks in 536 at-bats in 2005.

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“For me, it’s a matter of maturing as a hitter,” Wood said. “Most of my strikeouts have come from not swinging at strikes. I’ve put myself in too many 0-2 counts. It’s a matter of recognizing bad pitches early and not swinging at them.”

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Pitchers Jered Weaver (shoulder tightness) and Bartolo Colon (rotator-cuff tear) threw long toss at 120 feet for 10 minutes, and Scioscia said both right-handers were “very encouraged.” Weaver, also dealing with biceps tendinitis, hopes to throw off a mound by this weekend.

“Every time I throw, there’s still something there,” Weaver said. “It’s not pain, it’s not discomfort, it’s normal. After I get warmed up, it knocks itself out, so it’s just a matter of getting loose.”

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Closer Francisco Rodriguez, slowed by a right hamstring strain, threw an eight-minute bullpen session, the first time this spring he threw off a mound.... Triple-A catcher Brent Del Chiaro underwent surgery on the middle finger of his right hand, which he broke Monday. Class-A catcher Brett Martinez took Del Chiaro’s place in camp.... The Angels agreed to terms on 2007 contracts for Howie Kendrick, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Dustin Moseley and Phil Seibel.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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