Kole Calhoun grinding for roster spot with Angels

Kole Calhoun batted leadoff just six times last season, but he has adjusted well this spring.

Lisa Blumenfeld

LOS ANGELES –€“ Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun is taking nothing for granted, which is probably a good thing.

Calhoun is all but guaranteed to make the opening-day roster and will bat leadoff and play right field, but until manager Mike Scioscia tells him so, Calhoun is grinding. This is no time to sit back, even with one game left on the spring schedule.

"I’m excited, but I want to get there first," he said before Friday night’s 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. "I haven’t gotten the official word yet, and until I do I’m going to keep playing my butt off to get there."

He’s earned it. Calhoun, 26, had a strong final two months of the season in 2013 after he was called up from the minors in late July. This spring, with a chance to solidify his spot on the roster, he began the night hitting .281 with two home runs, 10 RBI, nine walks and a .378 on-base percentage.

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It’s likely Calhoun will hit at the top of the order, at least at the start of the season. But Scioscia, knowing it could put undue pressure on Calhoun to be a table-setter for the likes of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, is keeping his options open.

"We have every confidence that Kole’s going to be the guy to set the table, plus be that swing guy to be productive," Scioscia said. "There’s a lot of things that Kole brings, but we have some options to look at if maybe one guy in the lineup is trying to do too much.

"I don’t anticipate that with Kole, but I don’t think there’s so much pressure riding on him where we’re do or die to with what Kole does."

Hitting leadoff requires great patience, a good eye and a willingness to take pitches. Calhoun has the requisite speed (he stole 10 bases in 59 games last season at Triple-A Salt Lake) and understands he’s got power hitters behind him.

"I’ve always done a good job taking pitches, taking walks and getting on base," he said. "It’s not something completely new, but it is going to be (new) hitting in front of Trout and those guys, and I’ve got to get on base and really set our offense up. Obviously, I’ve never been in that spot before."

Calhoun batted leadoff just six times last season, but he has adjusted well this spring. As a fallback, Scioscia has shortstop Erick Aybar, who hit first in 46 games, and reserve outfielder J.B. Shuck, who hit leadoff in 64 games.

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Calhoun’s first priority, however, is making sure he’s on the 25-man roster that Scioscia will announced Saturday night. If he is, he said there will be about a half dozen family members at Angel Stadium to watch him play in his first season opener. Most of his family lives in Buckeye, Ariz., although he’s got an uncle ready to make the drive from San Diego.

But he won’t let them make plans until he knows for sure.

"I haven’t got the official word yet, and I haven’t talked to Mike about it face to face," he said. "But if I do, yeah, my family will be here."