If left field is a black hole for the Angels, a position that has produced a major league-worst .582 on-base-plus-slugging percentage this season, then second base has become a gray area.
The spot that Howie Kendrick manned so effectively for nine years through 2014 was thrown into a state of flux when Johnny Giavotella, who played second for most of the past two seasons, was designated for assignment Aug. 20 and eventually demoted to triple A.
Cliff Pennington has started 14 games at second in August. Gregorio Petit, who filled in admirably for injured shortstop Andrelton Simmons in May and June, has started five games there this month. And Kaleb Cowart, a third baseman by trade, started at second on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
None of the three has emerged as a favorite for the starting job next season, leaving the Angels in the same position this winter that they were in after trading Kendrick to the Dodgers before 2015: They have no idea who will play second in 2017.
“We’re trying to find a blend of the defensive component with a player who can do some things on the offensive side,” Manager Mike Scioscia said before Tuesday night’s 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds in Angel Stadium. “We want to make that a position of strength for us.”
Giavotella wasn’t the answer. He had grit, delivered some clutch hits and entertained with his belly-flop-like slides into third, which earned him the nickname, “The Flying Cannoli.” But he hit only .260 with a .287 on-base percentage, six homers and 31 runs batted in and was barely average defensively.
Scioscia said Pennington and Petit “have given us enough offense with terrific defense,” but Pennington is hitting only .210 with three homers and nine RBIs in 50 games. Petit has been a better hitter, with a .263 average, .317 OBP, two homers and 15 RBIs in 70 games.
Cowart, a first-round pick in 2010, has the most offensive upside of the three, but he played only 14 games at second at Salt Lake before being called up in mid-August and isn’t nearly as comfortable there as he is at third.
“It’s going pretty good so far,” Cowart said. “The double-play turn feels pretty good, and I’m learning the cuts and relays. It’s a different side of the diamond, but it’s still in the dirt, so it’s not completely new.”
The Angels could look to upgrade at second this winter through a trade or free agency. The top two free-agent options are the New York Mets’ Neil Walker, whom the Angels tried to acquire from Pittsburgh last winter, and Colorado’s Daniel Descalso.
Walker, 30, is batting .282 with an .823 OPS, 23 homers and 55 RBIs in 113 games but has a back issue that will require regular rest in September. Descalso, 29, is hitting .270 with a .775 OPS, three homers and 29 RBIs in 75 games.
C.J. Cron lined a two-run homer to center field in the first inning and lofted a solo shot over the high wall in right-center in the third to lead the Angels to their sixth win in seven games.
It was the seventh career multi-homer game and fourth this season for Cron, who missed five weeks of July and August because of a broken bone in his left hand. Mike Trout hit two doubles, a single and scored twice, and Simmons had three hits, including an RBI single for an insurance run in the eighth.
Jered Weaver (10-11) gave uptwo runs and eight hits, including Eugenio Suarez’s two-run homer in the seventh, in 6 1/3 innings to earn the win, and relievers Mike Morin, Jose Alvarez, J.C. Ramirez and Fernando Salas covered the final eight outs.
Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen, a former Cal State Fullerton right-hander who hit an emotional home run against the Dodgers on Aug. 19, just two days after the death of his father, Clif, gave up a run in two innings.
Angels catcher Jett Bandy gunned down Jose Peraza with a perfect throw to second in the third and has thrown out 18 of 42 (42.9%) would-be base-stealers this season.
Field of dreams
While Tim Tebow has been criticized by some who believe his showcase before a few dozen scouts at USC on Tuesday was more of a publicity stunt, Scioscia has no problem with the former star quarterback pursuing a baseball career.
“I definitely give him credit for wanting to pursue something he thinks he can do,” Scioscia said. “I think everyone should go for their dream. I still have it in mind to be on the 4 X 400-meter relay team in the Olympics, and if I get that opportunity, I’m going to try that … you think I have a shot?”