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OC Register: Getting a chance again, C.J. Cron looks to show Angels he deserves to play every day

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  • The Angels’ C.J. Cron, right, gets a high-five from Kole Calhoun after Cron hit a two-run home run during a game against the Baltimore Orioles last week at Angel Stadium. Calhoun scored on the home run. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Angels’ C.J. Cron, right, gets a high-five from Kole Calhoun after Cron hit a two-run home run during a game against the Baltimore Orioles last week at Angel Stadium. Calhoun scored on the home run. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)



WASHINGTON — C.J. Cron is 27 years old and has stepped into a major league batter’s box 1,310 times over parts of four seasons.

Yet, his story still seems to be a mystery.

Is there something else there? Is there another player just waiting to be revealed, if he could get 500 at-bats in a season?

So far Cron’s career with the Angels has been one of hot streaks, cold streaks, injuries and competition for at-bats.

Currently in the midst of one of those hot streaks, Cron spoke about how he’s still believes he has a higher level to achieve, and he’s trying to prove himself to the Angels.

“Hopefully I can get an extended look here and show them what I can do again,” Cron said.

His latest opportunity has been provided by Yunel Escobar’s oblique injury. That’s prompted the Angels to move Luis Valbuena to third against right-handed pitchers, clearing a spot for Cron to start every day at first.

Escobar has played just three games since he first felt a twinge in his back on Aug. 1. Since then, Cron has started 11 of 12 games. He’s 16 for 43 (.373) with four homers in that span.

“I feel good,” he said. “The confidence is there. Being in there every day has helped. The comfort level in the box has helped.”

He’s comfortable because he’s playing, which has helped him perform.

Of course, therein lies one of the reasons that playing in the major leagues is so hard. No one gets to play regularly if he doesn’t perform. But for some players, and Cron seems to be one of them, performing is difficult without regular playing time.

Ask Cron or hitting coach Dave Hansen about what’s going right when he’s doing well, and they use words like “timing” and “rhythm.”

How do you maintain timing?

“Just getting those at-bats,” Cron said.

The Angels have been through this for a few years with Cron, trying to get him hot and then riding out his streaks. Unfortunately for them, one of those streaks was interrupted last summer when he was hit in the hand by a pitch, requiring surgery.

When the season was over, Cron had hit .278 with 16 homers and a .792 OPS. The Angels then signed Valbuena, a move that was partly a backup plan in case the then-rehabbing Albert Pujols started the season on the disabled list and partly a lack of faith in Cron.

Valbuena, however, was the one who started the season on the disabled list, giving Cron an opportunity to play every day.

He hit .233 with no homers and three RBI in April.

“Early on, I guess I didn’t do too well in the role I was given,” Cron said.

Added Manager Mike Scioscia: “I think at times it seems he’s just searching for some things and goes quiet for a while.”

Cron fouled a ball off his foot and went on the disabled list. Then he came back and played for a couple weeks before being optioned to Triple-A. It was the first of two times this season that Cron would be sent back to the minors, a couple years after it seemed he should have graduated.

Sulking in Triple-A, however understandable that might have been, was not an option for Cron, whose father Chris played in the majors and managed in the minors.

“That wouldn’t be fair to your teammates,” Cron said. “They are down there trying to achieve the same goal you are. No one likes a guy who goes down and acts like that. I laugh with the guys. It’s the same as any locker room. We’re all trying to get back to the big leagues. No one feels bad for anyone down there.”

Cron returned to the majors just before the All-Star break, and began to get hot, accelerating with everyday at-bats after Escobar’s injury.

“It’s obviously noticeable,” Scioscia said. “His at-bats have gotten better. He’s driving the ball. All the things he needs to do, he’s picked it up his last 50 at-bats.”

It remains to be seen what will happen when Escobar comes off the disabled list in a couple weeks. Scioscia’s faith in Valbuena showed some cracks late in July, when he started Cron over him against a right-hander once. Valbuena does have six homers since the break, although he still isn’t getting many other hits to fall.

The Angels have Valbuena signed for next year too, which begs all sorts of questions about the combination. Would they trade one of them? Would they play Valbuena every day at third?

In the meantime, Cron is trying to prove he deserves to play every day, and not have to worry that a few cold games will cost him playing time.

“Hopefully I can do some things here,” Cron said. “Hopefully I can get in every day and show them what I’ve got again.”

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