Advertisement

Eckstein Might Get to Tear Up Ticket to Salt Lake

Baseball: Angel infielder, filling in for injured Kennedy, makes a case for staying with the big club.

April 13, 2001|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

David Eckstein has made a no-brainer a hand-wringer for Angel Manager Mike Scioscia.

He was to be a patch, a temporary filling, a guy to step into Adam Kennedy's cleats at second base. Of course, once Kennedy recovered from a fractured right index finger, Eckstein would be out of here on the first flight to Salt Lake City and the Angels' triple-A team.

Eckstein, though, has messed things up. He has played well. Well enough, in fact, that the plan might be altered, tailored to fit the Angels' needs beyond keeping Kennedy's seat warm.

"He's had a hand in every one of our wins," Scioscia said. "Every time he's been around the ball, he gets the job done."

So much so that Eckstein might well have a job with the Angels. When Kennedy comes off the disabled list, which could happen today, there are a number of scenarios to make room on the roster. Eckstein might still be sent down, but that is not the given it was when the Angels left spring training.

He has made that big an impact in nine games.

"The first day of spring training I could see how good he was," outfielder Darin Erstad said. "Just the way he went about preparing himself, how hard he worked. He was all business."

Just like Erstad. In fact, one Angel official referred to the 5-foot-8 Eckstein as Erstad's "Mini Me."

Not that height is a problem for Eckstein. He was asked recently if he received a pass to Disneyland because he plays for the Angels and replied, "I'm too short to go on any rides."

What he might not be short on is time. The Angels have been working him out at shortstop and may keep him in Anaheim to back up Benji Gil as well as Kennedy.

"I'm not worried about whether I stay here or not," Eckstein said. "The only thing I can control is how I play."

He has been a control freak about that, with solid performances.

Eckstein's bloop single to center in the third inning Thursday gave him a nine-game hitting streak to start the season and helped fuel a five-run Angel rally. Eckstein, who is hitting .406, is one of four major league players to open the season with a nine-game hitting streak.

He has been aggressive on the basepaths, scoring from first base on doubles twice in two games. Eckstein had scored five of the Angels' last 12 runs before Thursday's game.

His fielding abilities were apparent against Arizona in the Angels' final exhibition game, when Eckstein chased down a popup, diving onto the tarp rolled up in foul territory to make the catch.

Everything from this kid has been a pleasant surprise.

"All through spring training I was calling him 'Kid,' " Erstad said. "Then we get the media guides and I look and he's the same age as me. I had to go over and apologize to him."

Erstad is six months older. Both are 26.

Said Eckstein: "Hey, I'm just glad these guys were calling me something."

Little was known about Eckstein when spring training began. A 19th-round draft pick out of the University of Florida in 1997, he spent three-plus seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization, making steady progress, hitting .300 his first three minor league seasons.

The Red Sox tried to slip him off the 40-man roster last August. The Angels snapped him up like a routine grounder.

"I was a nobody in [Boston's] system," Eckstein said.

His name recognition wasn't much better with the Angels. That, though, is changing.

Said Scioscia: "He has made an impact on this team."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|