Calhoun earns place in core of Angels' lineup

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Of the 10 players in the Los Angeles Angels' starting lineup for a recent spring training game, only one had been with the team longer than Kole Calhoun.

That would be the face of the club, star outfielder Mike Trout.

Calhoun enters his fifth full major league season as a constant presence in a lineup of players who are new to the Angels, or haven't been around as long. He doesn't get as much of the spotlight as Trout, Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, and certainly new two-way player Shohei Ohtani. But Calhoun is someone the Angels are counting on.

"Trust me, we don't take Kole for granted. He's part of this core and an important part of this core," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're happy to have him."

Calhoun has been the Angels' everyday right fielder since 2014. Other players have come and gone, and even the right-field wall at Angels Stadium has changed. But Calhoun will be stationed in front of it yet again in 2018.

"You kind of learn as you go and learn how to navigate this big league life. Different cities and different teams and better pitching and the game just keeps getting better and better," Calhoun said. "So you kind of grow with the game and learn on the job a little bit."

Calhoun is coming off a season that saw him hit .244, the lowest batting average he's ever posted in his major league career. He hit 19 homers and drive in 71 runs.

With a group of proven hitters in front of him in the Angels' projected batting order — including Ian Kinsler, Trout, Pujols and Upton, Calhoun is hoping to raise his average this season. He's been hitting over .400 this spring.

"There was some things I worked out in the offseason. I wanted to see how they played out in the spring, and you know, it's going good so far," Calhoun said. "Using the whole field, got to be happy about that.

"There's a lot of numbers that were still good, too. Everybody looks at the average. I look at the average and I don't like where it's at," Calhoun said of last season. "So yeah, you want to right after the season go home and get to work and try to get ready for another year."

Calhoun won't get a chance to test out the new dimensions in right field until he returns with the Angels for an exhibition game against the crosstown Los Angeles Dodgers later this month. The Angels moved the home run boundary down from the top of the wall down 10 feet to a height of eight feet.

That means balls the left-handed hitting Calhoun might have hit for extra bases could be home runs, and the same goes for opposing team's balls hit to the wall beyond Calhoun's reach.

"Obviously it's going to change some games. There's a lot of balls that bang high off that wall and stay in play, now it's a run," Calhoun said. "We'll see when we get there. It'll be fun and interesting and kind of a new challenge."

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