Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos can't make the catch on a hit by… (Mark Duncan / Associated…)
Like a pitcher who might use spring training to test-drive a new pitch — and often get roughed up in the process — center fielder Peter Bourjos tried a little experiment in Arizona.
The speedy 25-year-old, in an effort to develop into the leadoff hitter he and the Angels envision, forced himself to be more patient at the plate, to take more pitches and go deeper in counts.
Bourjos' .311 spring average (19 for 61) and .394 on-base percentage in 23 games would indicate his patience was a virtue. His team-leading 17 strikeouts would indicate otherwise.
"I can't say it really worked for me, but it's going to help me in the long run getting deeper in counts and learning to hit behind in the count," said Bourjos, who will start in center field when the Angels open the 2012 season against the Royals on Friday night. "It seemed like all spring I was 0-and-2 and 1-2.
"But I have to learn from it. Though I struck out more than I wanted to, I tried to be more aggressive the last four or five games and started taking pitches that were closer to the zone for balls instead of swinging at them."
Bourjos posted more-than-respectable numbers in his first full big-league season, hitting .271 with 12 homers, 11 triples, 26 doubles, and 72 runs in 2011, the bulk of his starts coming in the eighth and ninth spots but 17 at leadoff.
Bourjos negated his speed by striking out 124 times, and he had only 32 walks. He surged in the second half — nine of his homers came after the All-Star break — when he cut down his swing and lowered his strikeouts from 79 in the first half to 45.
If this spring taught Bourjos anything, it's that he may not be cut out to be a master of plate discipline. But if he's as productive as he was last season, is that such a bad thing?
"I hate striking out — it's not fun," Bourjos said. "I've been an aggressive hitter since Little League. Not too many people can go up there and take, take, take. You have to be a really good hitter. I don't know if I'm at a point where I can do that, but I'm trying to cut down on my strikeouts."
First to third
Though Mark Trumbo made an error and struggled to field a chopper that was ruled a hit during the Freeway Series against the Dodgers, Manager Mike Scioscia said he's "anticipating" the converted first baseman will start at third Friday night.
Scioscia wants to get Trumbo's powerful right-handed bat in the lineup against Kansas City left-hander Bruce Chen, and with fly-ball pitcher Jered Weaver starting for the Angels, there might not be much action at third.
"Overall, Mark is still a work in progress down there, but we're comfortable with his ability to make the routine plays," Scioscia said. "Hopefully, he'll do that well enough to get more and more at-bats."