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Angels Are Reduced to Evaluating Options

They beat Royals, 7-4, and move Figgins to center field after getting shortstop Delgado from Cardinal system.

September 01, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Preparing for this first day of September, the month in which losing teams assess their personnel with next season in mind, the Angels made one decision and took a guarded step toward another.

The Angels won the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, 7-4 over the Kansas City Royals, with rain washing out the second game. The Angels also decided rookie Chone Figgins could not be an everyday shortstop, acquiring journeyman infielder Wilson Delgado so they could resume Figgins' audition in center field, and they remained decidedly noncommittal on Scot Shields' ability to become a full-time starting pitcher. Delgado could start at shortstop today.

Figgins, 25, has played second base, shortstop, left field and center field this season. He said he considers a utility tag "an insult" and wants to play every day, at one position or several.

"I don't consider myself a utility player. I consider myself an everyday player," he said.

"I've been through every stop in the minor leagues. To get up here at the age you're supposed to be here and play a couple times a week is not good for my career."

Figgins ignited the offense again Sunday, reaching base three times and driving in two runs. He is batting .338, including .385 since replacing the injured David Eckstein as the leadoff hitter.

Manager Mike Scioscia noted Figgins could play every day, rotating among a variety of positions.

"That's versatility, that's not utility," Scioscia said. "He's definitely opening up a lot of options for what can happen in the off-season."

With Eckstein's tenure at shortstop in jeopardy, the Angels could install Figgins as their leadoff hitter and center fielder, moving Darin Erstad to first base. Such a lineup would likely force the Angels to add power at shortstop (Miguel Tejada? Kazuo Matsui?) or the outfield (Vladimir Guerrero? Carlos Beltran?).

For now, the Angels wonder how realistic it might be to consider Figgins, a novice in the outfield, as a starter there. With Eckstein and fellow shortstop Alfredo Amezaga injured, the Angels purchased Delgado from the St. Louis Cardinals.

"We want to see Figgins more in center field," General Manager Bill Stoneman said.

Figgins said he believed he could play shortstop every day but welcomed the chance in center field.

"In my heart, I want to be in one spot and be consistent there," he said. "Regardless of what I say or do, it's their decision. I want to make it a tough decision."

Delgado, 31, joins his fifth major league team in five years. He spent the season at Memphis, the Cardinals' triple-A affiliate, and batted .233. With the Angels' triple-A infield already here, Stoneman opted for Delgado over double-A shortstop Brian Specht, 22, batting .252 with 14 home runs and 35 errors.

"We thought that was better than pushing Specht," Stoneman said.

Shields won, but not artistically. He pitched five innings, giving up three runs and seven hits and throwing 108 pitches, including three wild pitches. Scioscia commended him for his persistence but faulted him for inconsistent velocity and command and an excessive pitch count.

In six starts since replacing the released Kevin Appier in the rotation, Shields has a 5.05 earned-run average, with opponents hitting him at a .309 clip.

Shields said he is not injured but conceded he might be going through a "dead arm" phase. He said the sinkers he threw "low and away to a righty at will" earlier this year are now lazily crossing home plate, a discouraging sign for a reliever hoping to convince the team he can endure the additional innings required of a starter.

"As far as his stamina holding up for 33 starts," Scioscia said, "we might not get an answer this month."

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