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Spiezio Has Value to Angels

Infielder hits a grand slam in a 10-2 victory over the Twins, a day after the team considered trading him.

September 02, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS — The Angel lineup is riddled with holes, so what's another? On Sunday, the final day teams could acquire players and include them on a potential playoff roster, the Angels considered trading infielder Scott Spiezio to the Florida Marlins.

The day came and went without a trade, and Spiezio came with the Angels to Minnesota. They were more than happy to have him Monday, when he hit a grand slam in a 10-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

"If they would have traded me, I would have tried to play as hard as I could in the race," Spiezio said. "I don't mind being here. I like our chances next year, if we come back healthy."

This year is long over for the Angels, but not for the Twins or Marlins. After the Marlins lost third baseman Mike Lowell on Saturday because of a broken hand, they determined that they needed another hitter and reportedly targeted three players -- Spiezio, Jay Payton of the Colorado Rockies and Jeff Conine of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Angels and Marlins differed on Spiezio's worth, and talks never grew too serious. But the Marlins acquired Conine for two top pitching prospects, and the Angels might have pursued a similar deal more vigorously.

Spiezio plans to test free agency after the season, but he would like to return to the Angels and said he would have considered doing so even had they traded him.

General Manager Bill Stoneman declined to confirm trade discussions with a specific team and said he talked to more than one.

"I don't really think we were close," he said. "We were having talks with a couple of clubs."

Stoneman said he did not keep Spiezio simply to avoid playing the final month with Robb Quinlan and Adam Riggs at first base and Shawn Wooten at third.

"You measure the return on everything," Stoneman said. "We didn't care for the return being offered. The other clubs didn't like the return we wanted."

Even as an Angel, Spiezio still gets to help determine the outcome of a pennant race, although that race is for the American League Central title. The Twins and Kansas City Royals each trail the Chicago White Sox by two games, a margin the Angels can account for.

The Angels are 5-2 against the Twins, 4-1 against the Royals and 3-4 against the White Sox. Overall, the Angels are 67-70, with three consecutive victories and 12 in their last 18 games.

"We're just trying to get back to .500," winning pitcher John Lackey said. "We've had so many injuries and things go wrong, it would be nice to finish the season on a positive note."

Lackey held the Twins to two runs in seven innings, and Garret Anderson and Bengie Molina homered in the Angels' most lopsided victory since June 14. Those three are assured spots on next year's roster, but Spiezio is not. The Angels might invite him back as a utility player, but he would prefer to play every day.

"Hopefully, I can sway them a little bit," he said.

He is hitting .268, down from .285 last year, but he has 14 home runs, two more than last year. He ranks second on the team, behind Anderson, in runs batted in (70) and doubles (28).

Spiezio had not heard about the Florida trade talks before Monday, but he had heard rumors of earlier discussions with the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, when those teams searched for infield help. He wasn't counting on a trade, or eager for one, but he was intrigued by the possibility. Last October, he tied the record for postseason runs batted in.

"When you're in a pennant race, it's great," he said last week. "If I went, I'm sure I'd have fun. But I like it here, and I'd like a chance to come back."

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