In a way, adjusting to hitting ninth was harder for Peter Bourjos than it might be to become the Angels' leadoff hitter. Ever since high school, he had batted first.
"It felt like they pitched me a little different, more breaking balls and stuff," Bourjos said.
It could be a matter of time before Bourjos takes over as the Angels' primary table setter. If he continues to improve as rapidly as he did last season, he could be the best leadoff hitter the Angels have had since Chone Figgins left for Seattle.
Bourjos is working on being a more selective hitter, hoping to get on base more frequently for Albert Pujols and the other run producers. He had a .364 on-base percentage in his final season in the minor leagues, but got a little jumpy when he arrived in the majors. In 2010, Bourjos walked just six times in 189 plate appearances.
Last year, he had a .327 on-base percentage to go with a .271 batting average and surprising pop -- 12 home runs and a league-leading 11 triples.
"I need to control the strike zone better, something I started to get a feel for later in the season," Bourjos said. "I feel like I took some pitches that I was chasing earlier. I feel like I’m starting to get a little more like I was in the minor leagues. I don’t know if I’ll be that at the start of the season. Hopefully I am."
It sounds as if the early plan is for Erick Aybar or Maicer Izturis to bat leadoff against right-handers and for Bourjos to do it against lefties. Manager Mike Scioscia is hoping Bourjos grows into the job full time, perhaps within the first few months after Opening Day. It would solve a problem the Angels have had for two straight seasons.