Willits may end up in minor leagues

Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- You know your roster is deep when the player who helped save your team in 2007 is in danger of not even making the team in 2008.

It’s not that Reggie Willits, who replaced the injured Garret Anderson last May and batted .293 with a .391 on-base percentage and 74 runs, isn’t good enough to play for the Angels, who lost to Kansas City, 6-3, in an exhibition Wednesday. He is.

But the Angels must decide whether Willits, 26, would be better off playing every day at triple-A Salt Lake or serving as a sixth outfielder in Anaheim.


“We think he can benefit from playing every day at a lower level, but at the same time, his approach allows us to do some things,” General Manager Tony Reagins said. “He can give you a tough at-bat late in the game, pinch-run, steal a base, play all three outfield positions. He has versatility.”

Willits is old enough that he is no longer considered a prospect, but with only 475 big league at-bats, he is still developing.

Potentially clouding his immediate future is outfielder Nathan Haynes, who could fill a similar reserve role and is out of options, meaning he would have to clear waivers before being sent to Salt Lake. Willits has options, so the Angels would not be in danger of losing him if they sent him to triple A.

“It’s a tricky question,” Willits said, when asked if he’d be better off playing every day in Salt Lake or sparingly in Anaheim. “It’s one of those things . . . you don’t play the game to play in triple A, you play to be in the big leagues.

“I’ve worked my whole life to get an opportunity to play here; as far as where they send me, I can’t do anything about that. But everyone in this room would be lying if they said they’d rather play in Salt Lake than Anaheim.”

Midsummer classic

The Angels are the front-runners to host the 2010 All-Star game and are expected to be awarded the event after a number of contractual and logistical issues are worked out with the city of Anaheim and Major League Baseball.


“We’re working to get it, but the deal has not been finalized,” said Lorri Galloway, Anaheim city councilwoman. “We’re a world-class entertainment and sports city. It makes sense that we would host the All-Star game.”

Kansas City and Tampa Bay also bid for the 2010 game. The Angels last had the game in 1989. The game has not been played in Southern California since 1992, in San Diego, and the Dodgers last had the game in 1980.

This summer’s game will be in Yankee Stadium, and St. Louis will have the 2009 game. An American League park is expected to be selected for 2010.

Royal treatment

Torii Hunter had offers and significant interest from a number of teams, including the Yankees, White Sox, Rangers, Giants, Nationals, Royals and Twins, before the Angels lured the center fielder with a five-year, $90-million deal in November.

The second-best offer, surprisingly, came from Kansas City, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 1985 but is making a serious push to contend under owner David Glass, who was willing to go five years and $80 million for Hunter.

“I had a chance to talk to David Glass, and he’s pretty serious about winning,” said Hunter, who had a run-scoring single Wednesday. “He said, ‘Get the pockets, I’m starting to get deep.’ ”


“They’re renovating [Kauffman Stadium], giving it a whole face-lift, and it’s going to have everything. They showed me the plans, which no one has seen . . . it makes you want to cry. Wow. It’s going to be great.”

Extra, extra

Vladimir Guerrero (RBI triple, double) and Anderson (RBI double, double) each had two extra-base hits. Right-hander Jon Garland gave up three runs and seven hits in four innings, throwing 59 pitches. . . . Casey Kotchman sat out his second straight game because of a severe cut on his right shin, but the first baseman is expected to play today or Friday. . . . Set-up man Scot Shields, slowed by a sore shoulder, is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut today.


Times staff writer Dave McKibben contributed to this report.




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