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Anaheim Angels

Triple-A Turnaround

ANAHEIM–The defense never was in question. The arm was strong; the hands were good; the range was great.

The offense was a question. In half of a Triple-A season two years ago, and in an entire Triple-A season last year, Alfredo Amezaga had yet to prove himself as anything more than a good-field, no-hit shortstop prospect.

So the Angels were thrilled when the longest hitting streak in the majors or minors this season belonged to Amezaga, at 22 games and counting.

Amezaga dazzled in Double-A in the first half of 2001, so much so that an issue in major league camp in 2002 was whether he one day would displace David Eckstein or Adam Kennedy in the Anaheim infield. The Angels’ World Series championship made that issue moot, but so did the .251-6-51 season Amezaga produced at Salt Lake, on the heels of a .250-1-16 half-season at Salt Lake in 2001.

He returned to Salt Lake for 2003 but was batting .338-2-18 through 154 at-bats, with a .396 on-base percentage (up from .317 last season). He ranked among Pacific Coast League leaders in runs and stolen bases. He still might break into the majors as a No. 9 hitter, but his improved offense means he once again may be able to handle leadoff duties eventually.

Amezaga, 25, was drafted in the 13th round in 1999 out of St. Petersburg (Fla.) Junior College. He took up switch-hitting a year later, which is why the Angels are most impressed with his .366 average from the left side, up from .243 last season.

There is no vacancy in the middle infield in Anaheim now, but Eckstein and Kennedy are both eligible for arbitration in each of the next two years, so you never know. While the Angels appear to be grooming Salt Lake second baseman Chone Figgins for a utility role, they still envision Amezaga as an everyday shortstop.

Angel Food

• Righthander Bobby Jenks was placed on the DL with what the Angels called a stress reaction in his right elbow. Had he ignored the soreness in his elbow, Jenks said he might have suffered the same fate as Derrick Turnbow, who broke his right arm in 2001, missed most of two seasons and required three operations.

• First baseman Casey Kotchman, the Angels’ top prospect, was placed on the disabled list because of a strained right hamstring. Wrist injuries interrupted each of his first two pro seasons.

• Previous organization report: Eric Cyr

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