TEMPE, Ariz. — Larry Barnes could have an excellent spring, playing solid defense and hitting for average and power, and he still might not win the first-base job, vacant because of Mo Vaughn's season-ending elbow surgery.
That's what can happen when you're a rookie competing against Wally Joyner, an established veteran with a long track record of success, and Scott Spiezio, who has proven big league power and showed he can handle the position defensively last season.
"You would think I'd have to do something above and beyond [the others] to win the job," said Barnes, a 26-year-old who has played six minor league seasons and is still looking for his first big league at-bat.
"I obviously don't have the experience. I have to play good defense, show some power, hit the ball squarely and elevate a few balls. I just want to show them I'm ready to play at this level."
With Vaughn in the middle of a six-year, $80-million contract and entrenched at first base, the Angels worked Barnes in the outfield last spring, hoping to increase his chances of reaching the majors.
Injuries limited him to 103 games at triple-A Edmonton, where he hit .257 with seven home runs, 11 triples and 54 runs batted in. But Barnes, who bats left-handed, rebounded after the season, leading the Arizona Fall League with a .355 average and 24 RBIs in 34 games.
He may rate a slight edge over Joyner and Spiezio defensively, but Manager Mike Scioscia said offense will probably determine who wins the job. Barnes has two hits, including a two-run homer, in his first 11 Cactus League at-bats.
"We have a rainbow of options there--it depends on which player best fits our needs," Scioscia said. "It's not going to take a superhuman effort from any of these guys. Barnes may not hit with Spiezio's power or have Wally's on-base percentage, but he opened a lot of eyes last year."
The Angels were concerned enough about Garret Anderson's strained groin to send him to a Scottsdale, Ariz., physician to be examined Wednesday. The left fielder has not played in an exhibition game and has been limited to light workouts, with virtually no running, for more than a week. "He's getting a little better, but we're concerned this thing is going to linger," Scioscia said. "You don't want to do anything to aggravate." . . . The Angels' Cactus League game against the Cubs was rained out Wednesday. Tim Belcher and Scott Schoeneweis will start split-squad games today, Belcher against Oakland in Tempe and Schoeneweis against Colorado in Tucson. Ismael Valdes, scratched from his first start because of tightness in his right rib cage, is scheduled to pitch against the A's.