The signing of veteran 1B/3B Shea Hillenbrand by the Angels looks better and better with the team's continued problems with its promising young corps of corner infield prospects.
Dallas McPherson, who had won the starting third base job with the departure of Troy Glaus to Arizona in 2004, has been continually set back by various injuries since his arrival, and is now scheduled to be seen by spinal specialist Dr. Andrew Dossett of the Carroell Memorial clinic in Dallas after failing to respond favorably to a rest and rehabilitation propram.
At the same time, top corner infield prospect and Cuban defector Kendry Morales, who had been hitting at a more than .400 clip in the Dominican playoffs and leading his team with 11 homers in limited playing time, aggravated a chronic right knee injury Jan. 9 and is scheduled for examination by Dr. Lewis Yocum of the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles.
With highly regarded prospect Casey Kotchman, the three represent one of the deepest fields of corner prospects in the American League. But even Kotchman continues to struggle after being sidelined for much of last season with debilitating mononucleosis. Though Kotchman has resumed play in Puerto Rico, he appears to have lost strength, muscle and body mass and has been unable to raise his batting average much above the .260 mark, though he's projected as a better than .300 hitter.
Don't be surprised if Kotchman finds himself among the first to return to the soon to be star-studded Pacific Coast League's Salt Lake City Bees, the Angels AAA farm club, to rebuild his strength.
Whatever critics may think of Hillenbrand, he has always been healthy and productive if nothing else. Hillenbrand is virtually assured of significant playing time at designated hitter, third base or first as variables shake out during spring training.
Exactly who will make the cut and who will need to return to Salt Lake for further development likely won't be known until the Angels-Dodgers exhibition series to be played in Los Angeles immediately before the season officially opens in April. In any case, it should make for an especially interesting season in the Utah desert.