Reporting from Arlington, Texas — Maicer Izturis has sat out nearly as many games as he has played over the last three seasons, leading some to conclude that the 30-year-old infielder may be too fragile to be an everyday player in the major leagues.
That's a conclusion to which the usually reserved Izturis takes exception. Strong exception.
"Those are ignorant people who say that," Izturis said. "They don't know the game. I could play 140 games at 90%, 80%. But that's not the way I play. I play 100%."
"I don't see people saying he's fragile. They say he plays hard," Izturis said.
They should be saying the same thing about Izturis, insists Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, who has seen the versatile infielder seize the troubled leadoff spot by batting a league-best .380 in 16 games. And with a run-scoring single Wednesday, he has had a hit in all but two games in which he has played, and a seventh-inning stolen base gave him the team lead in that department.
"He's a gamer," Scioscia said. "Izzy's had some unfortunate things that have slowed him down. When he has been healthy, he's been an outstanding player."
Last season, the Angels offense sputtered with a leadoff spot that produced a .263 average and .325 on-base percentage. This spring, in the 15 games in which Izturis has batted first, he is hitting .391 with a .432 on-base percentage, leading the majors in both categories.
"All through the minor leagues, I batted first or second. That's my style of play," said Izturis, who insists he is not going to change that to avoid an injury.
"You can't control the things that happened. All you can do is give 100% and not worry about the things that have happened because that's in the past."
Teammates feel for Wood
With roster spots at a premium, the Angels had few choices other than designating infielder Brandon Wood for assignment when shortstop Erick Aybar returned from the disabled Wednesday. But that didn't make the move popular in a clubhouse where Wood was well liked.
"You see your friends going through something like that, it's hard. I'm probably around Brandon more than I am my own wife," said outfielder Reggie Willits, who was selected six rounds after Wood in the 2003 draft and played with him at stops in the minor leagues
"I know Brandon's going to go on and get an opportunity somewhere. And I know that if he gets a chance to go in and play somewhere every day, he's going to play well. So it's not that as much as just having to say goodbye to our friend."
Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher saw Wood at the team's hotel Wednesday morning and said the team's decision "killed him."
"He cried a lot," Hatcher said. "His buddies are here."
The Angels have nine days to work out a trade, put Wood on waivers or release him. Early in his playing career, Hatcher went through a similar situation when the Dodgers traded him to the Minnesota Twins, where he got regular playing time and became a .300 hitter. He said the same could happen to Wood.
"I just believe it's going to take him on a good path. He needs to play," Hatcher said. "It's about him getting that opportunity."