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BASEBALL : ANGELS SPRING REPORT

Wood says he's learned a lot from his struggles

He says he learned a lot from his struggles at the plate last season. There is a sense of urgency for the Angels, who are out of options with him.

March 02, 2011|Kevin Baxter

TEMPE, ARIZ. — Brandon Wood says he's a more mature player this spring, and not just because he turns 26 on Wednesday.

He also got married three months ago, and then there's what Wood endured last summer when he batted .146 with more than twice as many strikeouts as hits.

No major leaguer with as many as 200 plate appearances did worse.

"I learned a lot. So, yeah, I've matured," Wood says. "And my confidence level is higher that it was at any point last year."

Manager Mike Scioscia hopes so, because the Angels are out of options with Wood. That means they can't demote him to the minors without first offering him to other organizations. Along with time, the Angels also appear to be running out of patience.

"There's a sense of urgency with Brandon," Scioscia says. "He knows that coming off of last season that he's a better player than he showed.

"The bottom line is this: The experience he had last year, if it doesn't make him a more mature ballplayer, a better ballplayer, then it's really a shame. If it makes him a better player ... then it's worth paying that price."

Wood gave reason for hope Tuesday when, in his first spring training at-bat, he stroked a two-strike changeup from Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto into left field for a double, sparking a two-run rally that lifted the Angels to a 2-1 win.

The Angels figure to break camp this month with 12 pitchers on their 25-man roster. Add the nine starters in the batting order, a backup catcher and a reserve outfielder, and that leaves two spots for three players: Wood, utility infielder Alberto Callaspo and first baseman Mark Trumbo.

That window could open a bit wider if first baseman Kendry Morales continues to struggle in coming back from the broken ankle he suffered last May. Morales, who reported to spring training carrying as many as 15 extra pounds, still can't run without the aid of a special harness that keeps him from placing all his weight on his ankles. Plus, he has missed the last two days because of flu symptoms and a 103-degree fever.

Wood, who has played third, first and shortstop in the majors, isn't doing any math when it comes to figuring out his role on the team.

"I felt like I was coming in this spring training in a positive direction, more so than I was last year ... " he says. "I don't feel the pressure of trying to make this club. I don't feel the pressure of trying to make the starting lineup, or the utility role. None of that's in my mind. My mind is absolutely clear."

So, he says, is his swing, which he refined in off-season sessions with Arizona neighbor Kevin Long, a New York Yankees batting instructor.

"I'm so relaxed and not worrying about numbers. I know I can play well enough to be in the big leagues and play every day," he says. "Last year was my low point and it was a great learning experience."

Anderson retires

Garret Anderson, a three-time All-Star who helped lead the Angels to their only World Series title, announced his retirement Tuesday after a 17-year big league career.

Anderson, who spent his last two seasons in the National League with the Atlanta Braves and Dodgers, holds several Angels franchise records, including games (2,013), at-bats (7,989), runs (1,024), hits (2,368), total bases (3,743), extra-base hits (796), doubles (489) and runs batted in (1,292).

"I'm more at peace with it now than I would have been quite a few months ago," said Anderson, whose bases-clearing double drove in the winning runs in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. "Making the announcement, I'm already over the tough emotions."

Anderson, 38, had been hoping for an invitation to a major league camp this spring, but an attractive offer never materialized.

"I played as hard as I could for as long as I could," he said.

Short hops

Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, slowed by a sore lower back, threw about 40 pitches in batting practice Tuesday. He could make his spring training debut Friday.

--

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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