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Salmon to Provide Some DH Balance

With Fullmer out for year, Angels' longtime right fielder to get more duty as designated hitter.

June 28, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The Angels told Tim Salmon on Friday that he would play a lot less in right field and a lot more at designated hitter, the most prominent among several decisions that could help the organization prepare for the 2004 season.

In the wake of the season-ending knee injury suffered Thursday by designated hitter Brad Fullmer, the Angels recalled utilityman Chone Figgins from triple-A Salt Lake and indicated Figgins, Shawn Wooten and Jeff DaVanon would all get significant playing time. DaVanon replaced Salmon in right field Friday and replaced Darin Erstad as the leadoff hitter.

General Manager Bill Stoneman said the moves were designed to help the Angels win this season, not to evaluate players for next season. Still, as the Angels stand 13 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West and in fifth place in the wild-card race, they plan to grant DaVanon an extended opportunity to show if he can be a regular outfielder and Figgins and Wooten chances that could translate into significant major league roles.

"You find out a lot when you give people opportunities," Stoneman said. "Sometimes people step up and take advantage of those opportunities and make you wonder why you didn't give it to them earlier."

The Salmon decision is a delicate one, given his status as the Angels' all-time home run leader and franchise icon who hoisted the World Series championship trophy, and his oft-expressed distaste for the designated hitter position. Salmon, 34, whose contract extends through 2005, said last month that "I don't ever see myself pigeonholed solely as a DH."

However, the Angels regularly remove him for defensive purposes, and even Salmon acknowledged that DaVanon is the superior defensive outfielder right now.

In a closed-door meeting Friday, Manager Mike Scioscia and outfield coach Ron Roenicke told Salmon he would not be used solely at designated hitter but that the team needed him there more often in the absence of Fullmer.

"I think I'm being put into this position because of the dynamics of the team," Salmon said. "Everybody on the team needs to put aside their own desires. This is what works best for the club right now."

Salmon said he "couldn't get an answer" from Scioscia about how often he would be the designated hitter. "More than he probably wants to," one teammate said.

Said Scioscia: "I don't expect it to be every day. It will be more than he's had."

The Angels will probably use him at DH against right-handers. Scioscia said the Angels want to "keep him in touch with right field."

Wooten could take some playing time from first baseman Scott Spiezio against left-handers. First baseman Robb Quinlan, the Pacific Coast League MVP last season, is hitting .323 at triple-A Salt Lake and could also figure as a possible replacement for Spiezio next season.

"He's certainly a guy we expect to be a major league player for us at some point," Stoneman said.

DaVanon, who had three hits Friday to lift his batting average to .346, is out of minor league options after this season. Triple-A shortstop Alfredo Amezaga, hitting .348 at Salt Lake, also could join the Angels next season.

Stoneman said the Angels did not consider making a trade to replace Fullmer, an option Salmon said he might have endorsed.

"You're talking about an offense that's been scuffling, so, in the short run, yes," Salmon said. "In the long run, what are you going to give up to get something? I still think we have the offense we need."

Stoneman said fans and players should not draw the conclusion that the Angels are playing for 2004, not 2003.

"Any time you go out there, it's to win a game," he said. "That takes precedence over everything."

Spiezio said the players have not abandoned hope of returning to the playoffs this season and were not preoccupied in decoding the meanings of moves made by the front office.

"It doesn't matter what they think. It matters what the players think," Spiezio said. "We think we've got a great chance. We've got a long way to go."

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