Sunday, January 15, 2006

Erstad Returns to Center; Figgins Back to Third

Catching up on some older news, the Angels re-annoited Darin Erstad their center fielder and in doing so set some other balls in motion. With a newly minted 3-year deal in his pocket, Chone Figgins has been told to be ready to play third base in case Dallas McPherson is not quite ready. McPherson, who is rehabbing from hip surgury is said to be at "running a three-quarters speed, hitting off a tee and playing soft toss". How to you run at 3/4 speed? Is that anything like the Jimmy Buffett song "Living and Dying in 3/4 Time"? Well I hope D-Mac is up to 4/5 speed by the time Spring Training opens next month. Should McPherson either not be ready or play badly, Figgy will be there to start at the hot corner. Nothing like a little pressure cooker situation coming off serious hip surgery to get you running 100% right Big D?

Speaking of competition, Darin Erstad seems to feel he will have some for the center field gig. According to the gold glover "I've been told to be ready to play center. I haven't been told the job is mine, just to be ready. So, that is what I'm doing." Should young Mr. McPherson come out clubbing in Spring would Figgins have to compete with Erstad for the starting job in center? It is possible since Figgins will apparently be around until 2008 while Erstad's contract expires after this season.

One person who should be giddy this spring is Casey Kotchman. The highly touted first base prospect whose path to the majors has been blocked by Erstad and his bloated salary the past couple of years. Kotchman will finally have the Angels first base job from the get go this Spring and should have, in my opinion, had the job after last spring when he out hit Erstad but still found himself shipped off to Triple A when the Angels could not bring themselves to bench a guy they were paying $8,250,000. That kind of injustice can play with a young guy's head. When Kotchman was called up early in the season he went hitless over seven games and was demoted back to the minors. But a little time seemed to have given Kotchman the perspective he needed because when he was called back up to the big club in August he clubbed 6 homers and posted an OPS of .945. Kotchman topped that off by hitting .339 during the last month of the season. That was apparently enough to convince the Angels' brass that he should become the full-time first baseman. That and the fact that they could not sign Paul Konerko. So like Dallas McPherson last season, Kotchman becomes the latest prospect given a job prior to Spring Training. We can only hope this turns out better than last season's injury-filled fiasco.

For 2007, Angel fans can look forward to similar battles at second base (Howie Kendrick vs. Adam Kennedy) and shortstop (Brandon Wood vs. Orlando Cabrera). Unless injuries bring the prospects up early in 2006 that is.

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