TEMPE, Ariz. -- It had been a calf injury that delayed Josh Hamilton’s Cactus League debut until Monday. He singled for his first hit, then took off for second base.
For the Angels, that was as good a sign as any. The swing might not be there yet, but the legs are back.
“It felt good,” Hamilton said. “I did all the things you’re supposed to be able to do on the field.”
On Monday he did, since the Angels limited him to designated hitter in a game against the San Francisco Giants. Manager Mike Scioscia did not say when he expected Hamilton to play his first game in the outfield.
The Angels are off Tuesday. Their next game is Wednesday, and they open the regular season 12 days after that.
Hamilton said Sunday he fully expected to play in the opener, but Scioscia declined to make any such pronouncement.
“There are still some hurdles,” Scioscia said Monday. “You want to get his at-bats up. He’s got to play left field. He’ll need recovery days here and there.”
Hamilton responded: “I’m just going to say, whatever Scioscia thinks, I’m good with that. I’m not going to create any controversy with you guys. Whatever he says goes.”
Hamilton, a notorious free swinger, hit the third pitch in his first at-bat, then the first pitch in his second and third at-bats. He hit ground balls in his first two at-bats, one for a force play and one for a single, then lined out in his third at-bat.
“The first day back, you’ll be a little jumpy and a little out front,” he said. “The first couple at-bats were exactly that.”
Scioscia said he spoke with Mike Trout before the game about how the players welcomed the return of the Angels’ cleanup hitter to the lineup.
“They’re excited to see what it’s going to look like with him in the middle,” Scioscia said.
And at first …
Raul Ibanez is 41. He has not started a major league game at first base since he was 32.
He started there Monday, and Scioscia said Ibanez looked “very comfortable.” If he can handle the position, that would give Scioscia the option to use Albert Pujols as a designated hitter on occasion without affecting the everyday lineup.
“That’s the goal, to have options on the offensive side to be strong every day,” Scioscia said.
Ibanez, expected to be the Angels’ DH, played 100 games in the outfield for the Seattle Mariners last season. The Angels are confident he can help in left field, but Scioscia called Ibanez in the off-season and told him to bring a first baseman’s mitt to camp too.
“I had given one to my son,” Ibanez said. “He was in the car [when Scioscia called] and he said, ‘Do you want the mitt back, Dad?’ ”
Ibanez has worked extensively at the position this spring with Pujols and Alfredo Griffin, the Angels’ infield coach.
The Angels also tried outfielder Kole Calhoun at first base at the end of their last two games. If the Angels wanted to use Calhoun to spell Pujols without removing Ibanez from the lineup, they probably would need to play Ibanez in left field and move Hamilton to right.
Ibanez has played 136 games at first base. He also has played one game at third base and one at catcher, each time in a blowout. After the Mariners drafted him in 1992, they moved him from outfielder to catcher.
“I was such a good catcher,” he said, “they moved me back to the outfield.”
Pujols was excused from camp Monday so he could attend an event for his charitable foundation in Chicago. … The Angels are off Tuesday, but pitchers Garrett Richards and Ernesto Frieri and catcher Hank Conger will get their work in a triple-A exhibition game. … The winning pitcher Monday against the Giants was Cam Bedrosian, an Angels’ first-round draft pick in 2010 and son of former major league reliever Steve Bedrosian.