Luis Jimenez drops a fly ball during an Angels exhibition against the Mariners… (Charlie Riedel / Associated…)
PHOENIX -- Luis Jimenez sat before 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,” Angel 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 Cactus League game against Oakland, with Jimenez botching a second-inning grounder that led to a run. But the fact that the Angels are trying him at first shows that Jimenez, who hit .302 in six minor league seasons, is still in the hunt for one of the 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 he’s been sidelined nearly three weeks with quadriceps and calf problems, leaving Jimenez, left-hand-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, who started Saturday hitting .333 in 30 spring at-bats. “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.”
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