Mike Scioscia insisted Thursday that his decision to move Mike Trout from leadoff to the second spot was part of a broader plan for Trout to migrate toward the middle of the order and not a panic move in reaction to the team's 2-6 start.
But the fact that the Angels hit .120 (nine for 75) with runners in scoring position in the first eight games certainly expedited the move.
Alberto Callaspo (.336 career on-base percentage) hit first Thursday, though Scioscia said the speedier Erick Aybar will lead off when he returns from a left heel injury. Albert Pujols and slumping Josh Hamilton remained in the third and fourth spots.
"We talked in the winter about Mike being a guy you need to set the table for as well as a guy who sets the table," Scioscia said. "Right now it's important for us to connect Mike, Albert and Josh, with Erick or Alberto bringing a spark to set the table for Mike. Hopefully it's something that will get us going."
So why didn't Scioscia start the season with Trout, Pujols and Hamilton hitting second, third and fourth? Because Trout has hit leadoff for most of his life and had a phenomenal 2012 season there, batting .326 with a .399 OBP, 30 homers, 129 runs and 49 stolen bases.
"We wanted to see if it was such a comfort zone for Mike that we could absorb that hole in the second spot with Torii [Hunter] leaving," Scioscia said. "This is something we were moving toward anyway. It's better to do it now than a month from now."
Hamilton, who entered Thursday with a .156 average and 13 strikeouts, has seen mostly off-speed and breaking pitches. Wouldn't batting him second, where he might see more fastballs from teams looking to control Trout on the bases, help Hamilton snap out of his funk?
"I don't think a team is going to worry about stopping the stolen base as much as getting Josh out," Scioscia said. "You can take advantage by stealing a base on an off-speed pitch, but they're going to pitch Josh how they need to pitch him. If you try to stop the stolen base you might have the ball hit in the stands."
Trout liked Scioscia's attempt to "change stuff up," but he plans to "keep the same approach," which stresses plate discipline and hitting with two strikes.
"Mike just needs to play his game," Scioscia said. "It'll be interesting to see how having Albert behind him improves Mike's attack and ability to get pitches.… These guys in the second, third and fourth spots is something hopefully we can ride out for a long time."
Aybar could barely put weight on his injured foot Wednesday, but after a night of therapy, ice and medication — and an X-ray that showed no fracture — he felt much better Thursday. He'll be out for at least a few more days, "but if I keep progressing like this, I may be able to avoid the disabled list," he said.… Ryan Madson, recovering from Tommy John surgery, felt good enough Thursday to throw a 30-pitch, full-effort bullpen session two days after his last mound workout. He had been throwing off a mound every third day.