In second-base race, signs point to Giavotella

Angels could open season with eight-man bullpen

In second-base race, signs point to Giavotella

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia won't say so definitely, but chances are that Monday's Spring Training lineup against the Mariners at Peoria Sports Complex is the same one he'll roll out for Opening Day against the Mariners at Safeco Field in seven days.

Yes, that includes Johnny Giavotella, who seems to have locked down the job as the everyday second baseman -- even though he doesn't want to get ahead of himself.

"Whether I'm in Triple-A or the big leagues," Giavotella said, "I'm going to prepare myself the same way and make sure I'm ready."

Giavotella entered Spring Training in competition with Josh Rutledge, Grant Green and Taylor Featherston for that second base job. But Featherston, a Rule 5 pick, has been groomed as a backup and Green has been used as a utility man, bouncing all over the field as the Angels look to maximize his versatility.

The second-base job essentially became a two-man battle.

Rutledge can be optioned and hasn't hit (8-for-47 entering Monday). Giavotella can't be optioned and has hit (15-for-41).

"I think I've opened some eyes that I am capable of being a big leaguer; that I'm a quality option to be that guy to fill the void of Howie Kendrick," Giavotella said. "I think I showed them that I bring a lot of energy to each game, help the lineup out offensively. Even my defense; I feel like I've given them confidence that I can go out and make any play out there."

Rutledge's 9th-inning sac fly

The Angels' lineup on Monday, against right-hander Taijuan Walker, was as follows …

Kole Calhoun, RF Mike Trout, CF Albert Pujols, 1B Matt Joyce, LF David Freese, 3B Erick Aybar, SS C.J. Cron, DH Chris Iannetta, C Giavotella, 2B

That's how the Angels figure to line up against right-handed starters this season, at least initially. Against lefties, Freese figures to move into the cleanup spot, with Cron batting fifth and the left-handed-hitting Joyce either batting seventh or giving way to right-handed-hitting outfielder Collin Cowgill.

Scioscia declined to provide specifics, however, repeatedly saying: "There's a lot of things we're considering."

Some additional notes from Monday …

Hector Santiago pitched in a Minor League game on Monday, giving up one run on four hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are expected to do the same on Tuesday and Wednesday. Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney and Santiago line up to start the three exhibition Freeway Series games against the Dodgers, respectively.

• Kaleb Cowart, the former No. 1 prospect coming off two rough seasons in Double-A, has returned to switch-hitting, Scioscia confirmed. The 22-year-old Cowart started batting exclusively left-handed in the middle of last summer, but is now back to batting right-handed against lefties. In Monday's ninth inning, he hit a deep fly ball to center field against Mariners southpaw Charlie Furbush, getting a triple after the ball was lost in the sun.

• One of the last decisions in camp -- and perhaps the final decision remaining -- will be the final bench spot. That could come down to the two left-handed hitters remaining, Marc Krauss and Efren Navarro. Navarro (19-for-46) brings better defense and a more disciplined approach, while Krauss (10-for-23) brings more power. Both can play first base and the corner-outfield spots.

Tyler Skaggs expects to make the first road trip to Seattle and hopes to travel with the Angels all season, even though he'll spend the entire year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. "I want to root on my teammates," Skaggs said. "I really enjoy the guys over here. I want to see us win, too."

• Nothing has been announced yet, but there's a chance the Angels open the season with both Drew Rucinski and Jose Alvarez as part of an eight-man bullpen, with a fifth starter not needed until April 14. That could cut into the Angels' starting-pitching depth in Triple-A, but Scioscia said Alvarez isn't stretched out enough to be a starter anyway.

"I think the rotation depth is probably the strongest it's been in a while, as far as starters," Scioscia said. "We'll see. We're going to try to make the best [pitching staff] we can and not just try to create depth in Triple-A that might not make you a better team."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.