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Baseball / Sports

Angels' use of Ibanez draws criticism

CLEVELAND -- Heavy rain washed out Wednesday night's game between the Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field, but critics of Angels manager Mike Scioscia did not take the night off.

Raul Ibanez was in the lineup for the third consecutive game, leaving many bewildered at how Scioscia can continue to play a 42-year-old designated hitter with a .153 average over young slugger C.J. Cron.

Scioscia is aware of the public sentiment, which is why he gave a tongue-in-cheek response when asked why Ibanez was starting.

"I don't know," he said. "It doesn't make sense, does it?"

On almost every level, it doesn't. The Indians were starting right-hander Justin Masterson, who has held right-handers to a .216 average, but the right-handed-hitting Cron is hitting right-handers (.308) better than left-handers (.240).

The left-handed-hitting Ibanez has three hits in 18 at-bats (.167) against Masterson, who will pitch Thursday against the Angels, but two came April 28 in Anaheim, when Ibanez hit a triple and a single and drove in two runs in the Angels' 6-3 victory.

"Although Raul's numbers against Masterson aren't that great, he had a big hit at home against him," Scioscia said. "There's no doubt he's making some strides in the batter's box, and you're seeing better swings.

"The bottom line is production. Nobody understands that better than Raul. He knows he needs to have better at-bats. Nobody is working harder than Raul, and we're confident he's going to contribute for us."

Cron started 14 of 19 games from May 23 to June 11, when the Angels faced a heavy dose of left-handers, but with three weekend games in Atlanta, where there was no DH, and the Indians starting only right-handers, he has one pinch-hit at-bat in five games.

"I want to be in there as much as possible, but I'm not, so I'll be ready in case I have to pinch-hit or whatever," said Cron, who plays first base and DH. "You never know what can happen in the course of a game. I'm prepared for whenever the team needs me, to pinch-hit or whatever."

Cron was called up from triple A on May 3 and has played in 33 games, platooning with Ibanez at DH and spelling Albert Pujols at first base. He is hitting .275 with three home runs and 15 runs batted in.

But Cron, 24, is also the organization's top power-hitting prospect, and if he's not getting enough at-bats in the big leagues, Scioscia said the Angels would "have to revisit" the idea of sending him back to Salt Lake to play every day.

"If a guy is going to help us in an appreciable capacity, he's going to be here," Scioscia said. "We've seen that from C.J. for the most part. Right now, there hasn't been as many at-bats for him. But that could change."

Even with fewer at-bats, Cron believes there is a benefit to being in the big leagues.

"Any time you can be in this atmosphere, it helps you," he said. "I'm still a young player, so I have a lot to learn."

Ibanez is expected to remain in the lineup Thursday, and Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson, who was scheduled to start Wednesday night, will pitch. Garrett Richards will be pushed back to Friday night's series opener against the Texas Rangers, and Jered Weaver will pitch Saturday or Sunday.

The Angels and Indians have three mutual days off -- July 28, Aug. 14 and Sept. 8 -- on which to make up Wednesday night's game. With the Angels traveling home Thursday night, they were relieved not to have to play a doubleheader Thursday.

"From a pitching standpoint, from a travel standpoint, it's not in anyone's best interest to play a doubleheader," Scioscia said. "You do it out of necessity, but we have some options to make it up with reasonable travel, because we come back to the Midwest a couple of times."

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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