Gi­avotella didn’t play well enough with Roy­als to be ev­ery­day starter but is off to solid start with An­gels

Los Angeles Times - - BASEBALL - By Mike DiGio­vanna mike.digio­vanna@la­ Twit­ter: @MikeDiGio­vanna

The Kansas City Roy­als are in town for the An­gels’ home opener Fri­day night, giv­ing new An­gels sec­ond base­man Johnny Gi­avotella a chance to stick it to his old team, the one that never gave him a chance, that never be­lieved in him.

It’s a great story line . . . if only it were true.

The fact is, Gi­avotella, a sec­ond-round pick of the Roy­als in 2008, started 46 games for Kansas City in both 2011 and 2012 and didn’t play well enough to un­seat start­ing sec­ond base­man Chris Getz, a ca­reer .250 hit­ter with no power.

Gi­avotella, 27, spent most of 2013 and 2014 at triple-A Omaha, while Getz, El­liot John­son and Emilio Boni­fa­cio manned sec­ond base in 2013 and Omar In­fante played there in 2014, help­ing Kansas City win the Amer­i­can League pen­nant and come within one victory of a World Se­ries tro­phy.

The An­gels ac­quired Gi­avotella for jour­ney­man mi­nor league pitcher Brian Brod­er­ick in De­cem­ber.

“Any time you’re called up to the big leagues, it’s an op­por­tu­nity to show them what you can do at this level,” said Gi­avotella, who en­tered 2015 with a .238 av­er­age in 125 big league games. “If it’s 10 at-bats or 100 at-bats, you have to uti­lize that to your ad­van­tage.

“Un­for­tu­nately, in Kansas City, I don’t think I made a big enough im­pres­sion for them to feel con­fi­dent enough to put me in the lineup ev­ery day at sec­ond base, so they chose to go with other guys.”

Gi­avotella has a true sense of him­self and his abil­i­ties, and that should help him as he re­places Howie Ken­drick, the ca­reer .293 hit­ter and solid de­fender who was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher An­drew Heaney in De­cem­ber.

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Gi­avotella knows he won’t hit for the kind of av­er­age or power that Ken­drick pro­vided for al­most a decade in Ana­heim. He knows it could take sev­eral years to be­come as pro­fi­cient de­fen­sively as Ken­drick.

But that won’t pre­vent him from be­ing the best Johnny Gi­avotella he can be, and that might be good enough for the An­gels.

“I re­ally don’t think about try­ing to fill Howie’s shoes,” Gi­avotella said. “If I try to do more than I’m ca­pa­ble of do­ing, I’ll just fall flat on my face and fail. If I go out there and have con­fi­dence in my abil­i­ties, stay re­laxed and play hard, I know good things will hap­pen. God gave me a cer­tain set of tal­ents. I’m go­ing to play to the best of those tal­ents and not try to be any­body else but my­self.”

Gi­avotella brings high en­ergy and ef­fort, an abil­ity to get on base and drive in runs and to make the plays he should make in the field.

His diminu­tive size, skill set and at­ti­tude are some­what rem­i­nis­cent of David Eck­stein, who was a rel­a­tive un­known when the An­gels claimed him off waivers from Bos­ton in 2000. How­ever, he went on to be­come the fire­plug of a short­stop and lead­off man who helped the An­gels win their only World Se­ries ti­tle in 2002.

Gi­avotella won the sec­ond-base job in spring train­ing not by daz­zling the An­gels with his bat and glove but by play­ing con­sis­tently on both sides of the ball while Josh Rut­ledge, the fa­vorite to win the job en­ter­ing camp, and Tay­lor Feather­ston, who won the util­ity in­field job, strug­gled at the plate.

“There cer­tainly was an en­ergy that he brought in spring train­ing,” Manager Mike Scios­cia said. “No doubt, at the time we were mak­ing the de­ci­sion, he was swing­ing the bat bet­ter and mak­ing the rou­tine plays in the field.”

Gi­avotella is off to a solid start, go­ing four for nine (.444) in the sea­son-open­ing se­ries at Seat­tle. Now he’ll get a chance to play against many of the friends and team­mates he came up with in the Roy­als sys­tem, play­ers such as Mike Mous­takas and Eric Hos­mer.

“I have a pretty good rap­port with those guys; it will be nice to see them,” Gi­avotella said. “But I don’t think they’ll like me as much be­ing on a dif­fer­ent team.”

Richards up­date

Gar­rett Richards, who is re­cov­er­ing from left-knee surgery, threw 96 pitches in seven innings of a mi­nor league in­trasquad game in Ari­zona on Thurs­day, giv­ing up two earned runs and four hits, strik­ing out 12 and walk­ing three. Bar­ring a set­back, the hard-throw­ing right-han­der will begin a mi­nor league re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion as­sign­ment next week with an eye to­ward re­turn­ing to the An­gels ro­ta­tion by late April.

Up next

Left-han­der Hec­tor San­ti­ago (6-9, 3.75 ERA in 2014) will op­pose Kansas City left­hander Ja­son Var­gas (11-10, 3.71) at An­gel Sta­dium on Fri­day at 7 p.m. On the air: TV: FS West. Ra­dio: 830.

Elaine Thomp­son As­so­ci­ated Press

AN­GELS SEC­OND BASE­MAN Johnny Gi­avotella went four for nine (.444) in the sea­son-open­ing se­ries against the Seat­tle Mariners.

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