Hitting fourth and fifth in the lineup in the Cactus League opener, Mike Napoli and Brandon Wood didn’t waste any time flexing their muscles for the Angels.
After getting a hit taken away in the second inning by third baseman Josh Fields, Napoli — picking up where he left off with his torrid 2008 finish — launched a two-run double to left center in the third inning, giving the Angels a 3-2 lead over the White Sox.
Wood, who had backed Jermaine Dye to the wall in right in his first at-bat, had center fielder Jerry Owens climbing the wall in center to flag down his drive to end the inning against Octovio Dotel. Two at-bats, and Wood had launched about 750 feet worth of outs.
“I’m feeling more comfortable with my hands now,” Wood was saying before the game. “It took a while to get a feel for it, but it feels natural now. I think I’m getting to the ball a little quicker.”
Wood altered his stance last season, dropping his hands from a cocked position to give him a more direct path to the ball. He had his best month as an Angel in September, and he could be ready to take flight as a legitimate power presence.
Wouldn’t you know it? The very first inning of his very first Cactus League game in left field, trying to get comfortable with the newness of it all, Bobby Abreu fields two fly balls.
Following two singles, White Sox slugger Carlos Quentin lifted a towering fly ball against Matt Palmer that drifted to his left as Abreu came charging in. He made the catch, but it wasn’t an easy chance. The next hitter, Jim Thome, lifted another high fly that got in the path of the sun. Shielding his eyes with his glove, Abreu handled that one as well.
In his first Angels at-bat, Abreu sprayed a ball into the left corner, foul, before flying to center. In his second at-bat, against Octovio Dotel in the third, Abreu demonstrated his discipline, taking the count to 3-0 before walking on a 3-1 pitch after a fly-ball RBI double to left by Hainley Statia.
Abreu hopes to play every day until he departs after Sunday’s game, giving him a chance to get acquainted with left field. Almost exclusively a right fielder in his 13-year Major League career, he has played left only 16 times — and not since 1997.