ANAHEIM -- It was the afternoon of March 28, just before the opener of the annual Freeway Series against the Dodgers, when Luis Jimenez got a rare look at Angel Stadium and couldn't stop smiling. He walked around the field, took pictures of himself with his iPhone, stood in the batter's box, pretended to swing and said jokingly but with conviction: "I'm going to hit 20 homers. You'll see."
Two weeks later, here he was again, called up from Triple-A Salt Lake -- with shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Alberto Callaspo ailing -- and making his Major League debut against the Astros on Friday.
That smile was there again.
"I didn't imagine that I'd be here so soon, but I did picture myself here some day," said Jimenez, batting eighth and playing his natural position of third base. "I'm happy. I'm going to do the best I can."
In order to create a roster spot for Jimenez, the Angels optioned left-handed-hitting outfielder J.B. Shuck -- they need to keep all their bullpen arms, and Aybar and Callaspo don't figure to land on the disabled list.
Aybar, out since Tuesday with a bruised left heel, ran sprints, fielded grounders and took batting practice on Friday. The heel was hurting him while batting from the right side, so he switched primarily to the left, but he feels "a lot better now" and figures to return for the series in Minnesota early next week -- if not this weekend.
Callaspo felt tightness in his right calf while ranging to his left for a grounder in Thursday's seventh inning and stayed away from pregame activities, instead receiving treatment in the trainer's room. But he doesn't foresee being out long.
"Nothing serious," Callaspo said in Spanish. "Just a couple days, then I'll be ready to go again."
In other words, Jimenez won't really get a chance to hit those 20-some-odd home runs. At least not yet. What he can do is continue to make an impression in an organization where he doesn't really have a clear path, with Callaspo signed for the next two years and Kaleb Cowart -- the No. 1-ranked prospect in their system -- slated to take over at the hot corner.
Jimenez, 25, has posted a .303/.339/.518 slash line in seven years in the Minors, batting .309 with 16 homers, 85 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in his first season at Triple-A last year and then impressing in Spring Training.
"Some power numbers had started to emerge over the last couple years, where he's driving the ball better, but I think the biggest improvement is his overall presence on the field and his defense," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He played sensational defense for us at third base [in Spring Training], and I think that's as important as anything, to be able to play that hot corner and make the plays down there for your pitching staff. He's come a long way in that."
Scioscia holding firm that club will overcome slow start
ANAHEIM -- Mike Scioscia, on the heels of a four-game losing streak that has the Angels 5 1/2 games out of first place with the season only 11 days old, is vehement in saying that the Angels have enough in-house to turn it around.
At this stage in the season, even considering what happened last year, any thought to the contrary would be foolish.
"No doubt, we are going to turn this around," he said prior to Friday's series opener against the Astros. "There is no doubt. I think the personnel is here, the potential is here."
But the early-season struggles -- the one thing the Angels wanted to avoid this year -- are widespread.
The lineup, which has seen Mike Trout get moved from leadoff to the No. 2 spot, is last in the Majors with a .127 batting average with runners in scoring position entering Friday. The bullpen, which has lost Garrett Richards to the rotation, has a 7.71 ERA in its past six games. And the rotation, with ace Jered Weaver sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks, has yet to see a starting pitcher record an out in the seventh inning.
The offense, Scioscia said, "is screaming just to be patient with it" given the star power. At some point, he figures, it'll get going. But the Angels came into the season with perceived concerns about their pitching, and nothing about how this season has gone -- or even how Spring Training played out -- has quelled those thoughts.
"It's not going to be addressed with a huge change in personnel," Scioscia said. "These guys have to get out there and find their game."
Late PA announcer Courtney honored before game
ANAHEIM -- When David Courtney died on Nov. 29, the Angels and the entire Southern California sports community lost a beloved member.
The Angels have not forgotten their former public address announcer -- a position Courtney held since 1994 -- and they remembered him with a moment of silence prior to Friday's game.
After the silence, Courtney's wife, Janet, threw out the ceremonial first pitch while his siblings, John and Carolyn, and mother, Mary, observed from beyond the pitcher's mound.
The family members all wore custom Angels jerseys with "Courtney" and the No. 19 across the back in tribute to his 19 years with the organization.
"It's just a really proud moment," Janet said. "He welcomed people here for a long time and it's just a great moment, and we are so proud that the whole family is here. It's lovely."
In addition to the Angels, Courtney announced for the NHL's Kings and NBA's Clippers. He also worked for the Los Angeles Rams before the NFL team departed for St. Louis.
"This wasn't a job for David," John said. "He was very fortunate. He said to me all the time 'I don't work for a living.' This was something he enjoyed doing and he would have done it for free."
When fans were not at the stadium they could hear Courtney on the radio, where he did traffic and sports updates.
• Angels shortstop Erick Aybar and first-base coach Alfredo Griffin were honored on the field prior to Friday's game for being part of the champion Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic earlier this spring. Aybar drove in the game-winning run against Team USA and finished with a .333 batting average. Griffin has served as a coach for his native country in all three installments of the tournament.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.