ANAHEIM -- The Angels entered this season knowing they'd have ample depth at first base. Lately, they've had to put that depth to the test.
When the season began, the idea was that C.J. Cron would make the majority of the starts, with Albert Pujols being able to fill in on days that he wasn't a designated hitter. Through the first few months of the season, both managed to do just that, albeit with varying levels of consistency. The Angels have been in the middle of the pack among Major League clubs at the position, ranking 15th in wins above replacement (WAR) at the position according to FanGraphs.
Now, neither will likely be able to contribute at the position in the short term. Cron, who got off to a blazing start to the month of July by hitting .364/.405/.879 with five homers and 17 RBIs, will miss at least four to six weeks after fracturing his left hand on a hit by pitch on July 8. Pujols, who has dealt with several nagging injuries to his lower body, has been limited to designated-hitter duty for much of the last month and likely isn't healthy enough to man first base.
Ji-Man Choi, who began the season as the team's third first baseman and a left-handed hitter of the bench as a Rule 5 Draft pick, was called back up to the Majors to take part of the load. Choi, who went 1-for-18 through the first month and a half of the season, was designated for assignment as his confidence tanked. He cleared waivers and elected to remain with the Angels, hitting .327/.411/.485 with four homers and 27 RBIs in 45 games with Triple-A Salt Lake.
Choi already has shown an improved stroke, collecting two hits in his first eight at-bats and scoring his first career run during Friday's 7-0 win over the White Sox.
"Ji-Man in the batter's box definitely looks more comfortable," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he understands the challenge better. He went down there and played very well down in Triple-A, and I think that he's up here and playing with a little more confidence."
Choi is expected to platoon with Jefry Marte, a corner infielder who, like Choi, can also figure in at left field. Marte has been known for his bat, getting off to a hot start when he was recalled on May 31 for his second big league stint of the season. He's since cooled off, hitting .130 in 23 July at-bats entering Saturday's game and struggling in the field.
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim and covered the Angels on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.