On Sunday, the struggling C.J. Cron hit his first home run of 2017, a grand slam. On Monday, he was demoted to triple-A Salt Lake.
Cron, 27, hit only .232 with a .586 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 24 games. His playing was interrupted by a bruised foot and then a bruised hand. Since activated from the disabled list May 14, he hit .227 with a .701 OPS.
“The biggest part of this right now is for him to get some at-bats to find his timing,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s had some flashes here in the first 100 at-bats, but not where we know he can be. By him exhaling a little bit and getting down there, hopefully it’ll be what he needs to find his swing, find his timing, and get to be that beast in the batter’s box we know he can be and saw a lot last year.”
Cron batted .278 with a .792 OPS last season. Over his first three seasons, he proved to be a streaky hitter.
Cron was 12 days from completing three years of major league service time and qualifying for salary arbitration, so potentially he could lose millions of dollars by spending the rest of the season in the minor leagues.
To fill his roster spot, the Angels promoted infielder Nolan Fontana from triple A. Fontana made his major league debut Monday at the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field, the closest major league ballpark to his hometown of Winter Garden, Fla. Fontana attended the nearby University of Florida and expected many friends and family members to visit this week.
When he was introduced as the Angels’ second baseman minutes before first pitch, a contingent of fans cheered.
Fontana, 25, offers little power, but he hits left-handed and has a .379 career on-base percentage in the minor leagues, which Scioscia referenced when talking about Fontana’s promotion.
Like Cliff Pennington, Fontana can play shortstop, second base and third base.
“Some of their skill sets look redundant, but when you add up the games they play you’re going to need them both,” Scioscia said. “They’ll both get playing time.”
Fontana learned of his call-up Sunday evening in Round Rock, Texas, where the Salt Lake Bees were playing. His parents were visiting, so they went out to a celebratory dinner. He then tried to sleep before his early-morning flight to Florida.
“That didn’t really work,” he said.
Third baseman Yunel Escobar, out because of a strained hamstring, has started hitting off of a tee and running on an anti-gravity treadmill. “These are some nice steps forward that he’s taking, but it’s still too early to put a timetable on it,” Scioscia said. … Recently signed right-hander Doug Fister reported to the Angels’ extended spring-training facility in Tempe, Ariz., and completed a session of long toss.