The Angels have broken camp and are set to start their season tomorrow against the Kansas City Royals. Part of breaking camp is finalizing the roster, making those difficult decisions about who gets to stay with the big team, and who gets to toil away in the minor leagues. The Angels made the decision on their final roster spot and awarded it to…*drumroll*…scrappy utility player Alexi Amarista!
The 23-year old Amarista spent limited time with the major league team last season, playing just 23 games, splitting his time defensively between second base, shortstop, and the outfield. He beats out the more experienced, more powerful Jorge Cantu, who the Angels signed this offseason to a minor league deal as a possible bench player. Manager Mike Scioscia pointed to Amarista’s ability to play five positions (other than 1B and 3B) and the glut of corner infielders currently on the roster (that’s an understatement) as reasons they chose the younger utility player over Cantu. He also likes that Amarista can bring a little something different off the bench.
“His versatility is something we can use, and the opportunity to have some speed off the bench was important to us,” Scioscia said.
Amarista has enjoyed a pretty nice spring, batting .322 with a pair of home runs, 13 RBI, and 10 runs scored. For his part, Cantu hit .277 with two home runs and 10 RBI, failing to show he was a more valuable bat to have in the lineup, though there’s little argument he would provide more power than Amarista over a season.
While Amarista will be a valuable tool to use in pinch running/hitting/defensive late inning situations, he may not want to get too comfortable with the big boys. The Angels broke camp with 11 pitchers, eight infielders, four outfielders, and two catchers, but they’re expected to move to a 12-pitcher bullpen when they are forced to go to their fifth starter, April 15 at Yankee Stadium. As the last man onto the 40-man roster, that means Amarista will be the first man off of it, and will likely be assigned back to the minors very soon when Jerome Williams is ready to come off the DL.