PHOENIX — — Luis Jimenez sat in front of his corner locker in the Angels' clubhouse Saturday morning, pounding a wooden mallet into the pocket of a new first baseman's glove to soften the stiff leather.
The mitt was a gift from fellow Dominican Albert Pujols. And if Jimenez learns to use it quickly enough it could earn him an invitation to the big leagues sometime this season.
"We want to see his versatility," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "This guy has looked really good at third base. To help us, we all feel that it's important for him to … show he can play first base. Because in the batter's box he can swing the bat and has shown he can drive in runs."
The experiment didn't go well in Saturday's 13-13 tie with Oakland, with Jimenez botching a grounder that led to a run and fouling a ball off his left shin. But he also had a hit and drove in two runs, leaving his spring average at .324.
The fact the Angels are trying him at first shows Jimenez, who hit .302 in six minor league seasons, is still in the hunt for one of two remaining berths on the opening day roster — or for a call-up early in the season.
Infielder Andrew Romine, who can play three positions, appears a lock for one spot and veteran Bill Hall was expected to get the other. But Hall has been sidelined nearly three weeks with quadriceps and calf problems, leaving Jimenez, left-handed-hitting outfielder Kole Calhoun and nonroster invitee Luis Rodriguez, who has played all four infield position during his six big league seasons, to battle over the final opening
"He's certainly put himself on our depth chart," Scioscia said of Jimenez. "Over the next 10 days things can sort out and we'll see where we are. There certainly are some rosters we can explore and different guys are going to have different levels on the depth chart."
'One of those days'
Jered Weaver knew it would be a long afternoon when he walked the leadoff hitter on four pitches. And it went downhill from there with the Angels' opening day starter giving up eight runs and six hits — including three home runs — in two innings.
"It was one of those days where you try to make adjustments and something still didn't feel right," said Weaver, who also committed a balk. "I didn't have a feel for any of my pitches. Fastball command was terrible. Everything was up and flat.
"Everything feels good, but you feel like you don't really have much behind the ball."
Weaver, who was supposed to throw five innings and 75 pitches, said he may be suffering from a spring nemesis, the "dead arm" period, when a pitcher's arm suddenly becomes fatigued.
"I don't know what terms you want to put on it, what you want to call it. He didn't feel like he had his release point," Scioscia said. "It certainly wasn't the outing we needed at this time of the spring to keep these guys on track. And we'll evaluate where he is this week.
"This is the guy we're targeting for opening day and we need him to have a certain amount of stamina before he gets there."
Reliever Kevin Jepsen hasn't pitched in a week because of tightness in his right triceps. Scioscia said the problem is not considered serious and he expects Jepsen to return to the mound this week.