Cameron Maybin has always viewed himself as a center fielder. That will change this season as an Angel. He also viewed himself as the center of the Detroit Tigers' clubhouse in 2016, and that, he said, will not change on his new team.
"I was, like, the heartbeat to that locker room last year," Maybin said. "As far as the energy goes, I was the catalyst. I brought the energy every day, the passion to the locker room, the fire. I got guys going. People publicly said that a lot. When I came back, you saw how it turned around. As soon as I got back to the locker room, it was an immediate attitude change. It was an immediate turnaround."
The facts support his claims: Maybin returned from a season-opening disabled-list stint on May 16 and was named the American League player of the week the subsequent Sunday. The slumping Tigers began to win. Come season's end, they were 21-32 while Maybin was on the disabled list and 65-43 while he was not.
He expects his personality to have the same effect within the Angels.
"Passion and energy and the love I truly have for the game is what I bring," he said. "I think I've always been able to affect a clubhouse in a positive manner. I think it'll carry over."
What will be new is left field. Maybin played some of the position as a freshman in high school, 15 years ago, and logged 80 innings there in his rookie season, a decade ago. That is it. As best as he could tell, he said Sunday, keeping his feet vigilant would be the key to his success.
"In center field, you don't always have to get the best jumps," he said. "Everything's in front of you, and it's easy to be relaxed out there and just fall into a comfort zone, hands on your knees, just reacting. For left, you've gotta be a little more alert, because you don't have that same visual of seeing the ball go in the zone. When you're in left, everything's pretty much going to the lines. It's hooking or slicing, and you don't have time to make that false step."
Maybin, who turns 30 on opening day, has spent most of his career hitting first, second or seventh. The only certainties in Manager Mike Scioscia's lineup are Mike Trout third and Albert Pujols fourth, so the Angels are still considering whether to bat Maybin atop their order or in the latter half of it. He and right fielder Kole Calhoun could be interchangeable between those roles.
It is hard to predict what kind of offensive player Maybin will be. A touted teenager and the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft, he had not reached expectations; he entered 2016 with a career .251 batting average, .313 on-base percentage, and .366 slugging percentage. But while he played in only 94 games because of three injuries involving his left hand, he had a career year for the contending Tigers, besting each of those marks by more than 50 points.
"We were in the race, man, and I was a big part of the success we were having," he said. "When I was in the lineup, it rolled."
At season's end, he knew the Tigers would consider the looming luxury tax as they decided on his $9 million team option. When they did not exercise it right away, he expected a trade, and he soon received one. The Angels acquired him on the first afternoon of the off-season.
At home in Asheville, N.C., before reporting to spring training one week early, Maybin changed nothing from winters past.
"I don't make it a point to go hit with some guru," he said. "I've got no special secrets, no special coaches. It's me, my dad, and my son going to the cage. We've got a machine.
"It's like old-school days. Just pray and work hard, that's it."
Rain forced the Angels to push their scheduled full-squad workout inside for the second straight day. The weather is expected to let up and allow a normal practice Monday. … Left-hander Andrew Heaney placed a recycle bin inside the Tempe Diablo Stadium clubhouse, as promised last week. He said he believed a small gesture could have a big impact in an environment like spring training.