Halos' Marte heats up after slow start

First baseman Choi sees first spring action in left field

Halos' Marte heats up after slow start

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jefry Marte, a third baseman the Angels acquired in a January trade with the Tigers, got off to a slow start this spring, but eventually found his swing and has been making a strong impression ever since.

Marte, 24, was hitless in his first four Cactus League games (six at-bats), but has hits in seven of the eight games since then and is hitting .409 after Thursday's 4-4 tie against the Rockies.

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"He started off a little bit slow, but he's shown, especially on the practice field, that he's a good defensive third baseman and there's no doubt that the ball jumps off his bat," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Marte made his Major League debut with the Tigers late last season. The 24-year old hit .213 in 33 games in the second half.

Ji-Man Choi has spent the bulk of his career at first base, but the Angels gave him a look in left field Thursday.

Choi played left field for 26 games at Triple-A Tacoma in the Mariners' organization last season. But since the Angels selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, his left-field experience has been limited to workouts and a B game.

Choi's two-run blast

"He looks OK," Scioscia said. "He's obviously, not going to have the natural range of some guys, but he's got the potential to make the plays he needs to, to play out there. That versatility might be something we need."

Choi may not look like a prototypical left fielder, but Scioscia believes he can hold his own in the outfield and the more versatile a player is, the better.

"He covers more ground than you think, he runs OK," Scioscia said.

• Andreleton Simmons returned to the lineup Thursday, but as the designated hitter. The shortstop -- who went 1-for-2 and scored a run -- is making progress, but isn't quite ready to play defensively.

"If it takes another couple days, it takes another couple days, but he's feeling better," Scioscia said.

Geovany Soto, battling arm fatigue, will be ready to catch Friday, Scioscia said. Soto pinch-hit for Simmons on Thursday and went 0-for-1 with a walk.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.