Angels send C.J. Cron to Triple-A to ‘find his timing’

C.J. Cron hit his first homer of the season — a grand slam against the Mets — one day before being optioned to the minor leagues. (Keith Durflinger/Staff Photographer)
C.J. Cron hit his first homer of the season — a grand slam against the Mets — one day before being optioned to the minor leagues. (Keith Durflinger/Staff Photographer)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. >> A day after C.J. Cron hit his first homer of the season, he was on his way back to Triple-A.

Apparently one homer — a grand slam — wasn’t enough to change the fact that Cron had hit just .227 since coming off the disabled list earlier this month, so they optioned him on Monday. The Angels called up infielder Nolan Fontana, who also provides some coverage at second base for slumping Danny Espinosa.

Cron’s half of the equation was the more significant part of this transaction, manager Mike Scioscia said.

“The biggest part of this right now is for him to get some at-bats to find his timing,” Scioscia said. “He’s had some flashes here in the first 100 at-bats, but not where we know he can be. I think by him kind of exhaling a little bit and getting down there, hopefully it will be what he needs to find his swing and find his timing and be that beast in the batter’s box we know he can be, that we saw a lot last year.”

For the season, Cron is hitting .232 with one homer and a .586 OPS. His career average is .264 with a .747 OPS.

As for Fontana, he was in the starting lineup at second on Monday night, the major league debut for the 25-year-old Florida native.

Fontana provides the Angels plenty of options because of his versatility. He is naturally a shortstop, but he can play second and third. He also bats left-handed, which is handy during a stretch in which the Angels are facing almost exclusively right-handed pitchers.

He can supplement the Angels roster in a few areas, with the switch-hitting Espinosa slumping — worse against right-handed pitchers — and third baseman Yunel Escobar on the disabled list.

Espinosa, who is hitting .152, recently endured an 0-for-36 stretch. He said he had been feeling better lately, although some of the better recent at-bats were against lefties.

“Espy from the right-side is very comfortable,” Scioscia said. “He’ll certainly get looks there. He’s not going to be totally platooned, but it’s going to take a little pressure off him when there’s a right-handed pitcher out there to go out there and keep grinding.”

Lately the Angels had been starting Espinosa against lefties and splitting the time against righties about equally between him and Cliff Pennington. Scioscia said they don’t want to Pennington “wear down by playing him every day. There’s got to be a balance there.”

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The Angels also could have called up Kaleb Cowart instead of Fontana. Cowart also plays also three infield positions and switch-hits, and his numbers were slightly better. Fontana is better defensively at second, though.

“Everything we were hearing from (Triple-A), Billy (Eppler) felt (Fontanta) was the best option to come up and bring some versatility to our club,” Scioscia said.

Following Fister

Doug Fister reported to the Angels’ complex in Arizona and had a long-toss workout, Scioscia said. The plan is for Fister to work out in Arizona for a week or two and then report to Triple-A.

Fister’s contract includes an out. If he’s not in the majors by June 21, he will be released. He will be paid a pro-rated portion of $1.75 million for whatever time he is in the majors. He can also earn up to $1 million in performance bonuses, based on the number of starts he makes. The bonuses begin at his eighth start, and reach their maximum at his 20th. He could also earn up to $200,000 in bonuses based on relief appearances, up to 45.

Also

Cam Bedrosian (groin) threw a light bullpen session on Monday, his first time doing so since going on the disabled list. ... Tyler Skaggs (oblique) began a throwing program on Monday, his first time throwing since he was hurt. ... Huston Street (strained lat) continues to pitch in extended spring training. Scioscia said he is getting closer to being ready to go to a minor league club to continue his rehab assignment. He is eligible to return from the disable list on June 1, but at this point it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready by then. “This week will tell us a lot about where he is,” Scioscia said. ... Yunel Escobar (hamstring) has begun hitting off a tee and running on an anti-gravity treadmill.

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