When the Angels agreed to sign Luis Valbuena to a two-year contract in January, they accordingly decided to keep only one of their two young infielders with power-hitting potential: C.J. Cron and Jefry Marte.
Injuries delayed that decision 39 games and will delay it even longer. For a moment Sunday, it came. Before their series finale against Detroit, the Angels activated Cron from the 10-day disabled list and optioned Marte to triple-A Salt Lake.
But the calculus changed and the decision was reversed when a later MRI examination on third baseman Yunel Escobar's left hamstring revealed a low-grade strain. The Angels placed him on the disabled list and planned to promote Marte right back to the majors. Escobar suffered the strain in Saturday's loss to Detroit; he is expected to miss two to four weeks.
Since Marte can play third base and Cron cannot, Marte's demotion had signaled the Angels' confidence that Escobar would be fine. Angels manager Mike Scioscia specifically said Sunday morning that he expected Escobar to avoid the DL.
"Every time we think we're getting close to getting some order to our lineup, somebody goes down," Scioscia said later.
Though Cron missed two weeks, he was cleared to return from his initial injury, a bruised foot, halfway through that time. The second week was spent regaining his timing after he took a pitch off his right wrist while on rehab assignment.
Meantime, Marte has struggled all season. In 75 plate appearances, he's batting .179 with a .582 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He earned the opportunity to stick with a breakout 2016, in which he logged a .790 OPS and homered 15 times over a half-season of opportunities.
"He's not in the same comfort zone right now that he was, so it'll be an opportunity for him to go down there, get some at-bats, and hopefully get to be where he needs to be," Scioscia said before the change of plans. "He can be a really important piece for us as we keep moving forward."
Scioscia pointed to Marte's two-week slump to begin 2016 in Salt Lake as evidence the 25-year-old can require time to find his swing.
Albert Pujols was away from the team to tend to a personal matter Sunday. He's expected back Monday for the series opener against the Chicago White Sox. … Mike Trout served as the Angels' designated hitter Sunday. Scioscia gave him a half-day after hamstring tightness forced him to miss five games last week. … Right-hander Cam Bedrosian's groin strain is improving. The Angels are insistent he cannot throw off of a mound until there's no pain in the muscle. "It's approaching, but it's not quite there yet," Scioscia said. Bedrosian was placed on the 10-day disabled list April 22.