TEMPE, ARIZ. — Who's on first base for the Angels this season will hinge more on who's swinging the hottest bat, not who's flashing the smoothest leather, and that could bode well for Kendry Morales.
Casey Kotchman appeared to have the edge over Morales entering camp because of his superior defense and Manager Mike Scioscia's usual tendency, when the offensive difference between players is negligible, to go with the better defender.
But because Morales showed in limited big-league time last season that he is a competent, if not Gold Glove-caliber, first baseman, and because the Angels are looking for more power and production wherever they can find it, Scioscia will place more of an emphasis on offense at the position.
"There's always a priority on defense, and we're going to go with as much of a defensive presence at first base as we can, but you're going to have to balance it with a look offensively," Scioscia said. "I think all of our first basemen are capable enough to where we're going to sort out the position more by the offensive part of it."
In 57 games with the Angels last season, Morales hit .234 with five home runs and 22 runs batted in. But the Cuban switch-hitter went back to his old style this winter -- a more open stance from the left side -- and hit .263 with 11 homers in 46 games in the Dominican Republic.
"I'm going to try to win the job," Morales, 23, said through an interpreter. "The team will have to make the decision."
Kotchman, meanwhile, is trying to regain his starting job after sitting out all but 29 games of last season because of mononucleosis. He played two months of winter ball in Puerto Rico and began to get his timing back, and he appears to have his energy back this spring.
"Every day, whether you have a job or are playing baseball, you have to prove yourself," Kotchman said. "I'll just handle my business and see what happens."
Shea Hillenbrand and Robb Quinlan also are expected to play some first base, and the loser of the battle between Kotchman and Morales probably will open the season at triple-A Salt Lake.
Asked if the competition between Kotchman and Morales is more of a toss-up than it might seem, Scioscia said, "Absolutely. It's a position that's open."
Shortstop Brandon Wood, the organization's top position-playing prospect, began his transition from shortstop to third base by taking about 45 ground balls at third in practice and picking the brains of Chone Figgins and Dallas McPherson.
"I'm kind of looking at it like a new job," said Wood, who could emerge as an option for the Angels this season if he excels at the position. "I want to go in with as much information as possible."
Scioscia didn't see Wood work out -- first base coach Alfredo Griffin and roving infield instructor Rob Picciolo oversaw the session -- but the manager has no doubt Wood will thrive at third.
"It's not going to be a tough transition at all," Scioscia said. "He should be able to make it in a short amount of time."
What is Scioscia basing his opinion on?
"The way he looks in drills, his actions, his motivation, his skill set," Scioscia said. "He should pick up that position quickly."
Pitchers Bartolo Colon (rotator-cuff tear) and Jered Weaver (shoulder tightness) threw long toss at a distance of about 120 feet for the second straight day.