C.J. Cron Can Cement His Name As Angels Starting First Baseman For Years To Come!

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Infielder Luis Valbuena has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 right hamstring strain and is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, the Angels announced Thursday. Valbuena exited the Angels’ 7-4 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday after three innings with hamstring tightness and underwent an MRI on Thursday, which revealed the extent of the injury.

The Angels signed Valbuena to a two-year, $15 million deal over the offseason, adding a key left-handed bat to balance out their predominantly right-handed lineup. He was projected to be the club’s Opening Day first baseman, but he’ll now begin the season on the disabled list.

“Luis, we were counting on him a lot this year,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think he’s great fit for us. We’re just going to have to wait until he’s 100 percent and healthy and see where he is.”

Valbuena, 31, underwent season-ending surgery on the same hamstring in August, which limited him to 90 games in 2016. He was also sidelined for two weeks earlier in camp with leg soreness, though Scioscia said that absence was due to a separate issue.

With Valbuena unavailable to start the season, C.J. Cron is now in line to be the Angels’ primary first baseman, with Jefry Marte likely making the team as a bench player. Cron, 27, hit .278 with 16 home runs and 69 RBIs over 116 games in 2016, though he missed six weeks last summer after suffering a left hand fracture on a hit by pitch.

Cron arrived to camp in a competition with Valbuena for playing time at first base, and he’s enjoyed a strong spring so far, batting .340 with a 1.013 OPS and three home runs over 18 Cactus League games.

“C.J. is having a great spring,” Scioscia said. “Last year, I think C.J. really showed what he can do. It’s unfortunate that he got hit, broke his hand, and had some setbacks there. But hopefully, he’s grown as a hitter and matured. I think that he’ll certainly be getting a lot of those at-bats at first base right now.”

By Maria Guardado