The numbers were stacking up, and not in Chone Figgins' favor: one hit in his last 28 at-bats, four hits in his last 42 at-bats, zero runs in his last eight games. Figgins is supposed to be a spark plug for the offense, but for the last two weeks he was more of an emergency brake.
That left Manager Mike Scioscia little choice but to drop Figgins from the first to the ninth spot for Wednesday's game against the Orioles, the first time this season Figgins has started anywhere but the leadoff spot.
"It was a little tough to hear," said Figgins, who met with Scioscia before the lineup was posted. "But if it's something that will help the team, I'm all for it. I'm still in the lineup, so I'm OK with it."
Scioscia said he hoped the move would "take a little pressure" off Figgins, who entered Wednesday with a .253 average, .327 on-base percentage, 81 runs and an American League-leading 47 stolen bases.
Figgins said he would feel the same pressure no matter where he hit in the order, but the switch worked: Figgins hit a tiebreaking, run-scoring double past first baseman Kevin Millar in the sixth inning and doubled again to right and scored in the eighth inning of the Angels' 8-4 victory.
Maicer Izturis and Orlando Cabrera, who moved to the top two spots in the order, combined for five hits, four runs and two RBIs, and Vladimir Guerrero, who moved from cleanup to third, had two singles and two RBIs.
"This gives Vlad a chance of getting up with guys on base in the first inning," Scioscia said. "Right now, Figgy is struggling to get on base. We're in a short season. Hopefully we'll get the offense we need to support our pitching."
While the demotion isn't permanent, the Angels will stick with this new lineup for a while. "We can adjust if Figgy gets back to swinging the way he did earlier in the season," Scioscia said. "Long range, we want Figgy up top again, because that adds depth and creates more in front of Vladdy, Garret and Juan Rivera. But right now, we have to look for production."
The Angels may have found a new weapon: the bunt and rake.
Twice Tuesday night, Adam Kennedy fouled off a first-pitch bunt before ripping the second pitch for a hit, a single in the seventh inning and a walk-off, three-run home run in the 10th that gave the Angels a 5-2 victory.
Meanwhile, in Havana on Monday night, Angels prospect Brandon Wood, playing in an Olympic qualifying tournament, fouled off a bunt attempt in the eighth inning before blasting a two-run home run to break a 5-5 tie and help Team USA to an 8-5 win over Cuba in the gold-medal game.
"That's got to be addressed in spring training next year," Scioscia said. "What are we going to do with that play?"
Rivera sat out his second straight game Wednesday because of a slight strain in the back of his left hand, but the Angels hope he'll be able to return Friday.... Tim Salmon is the Angels' recipient of the 2006 Roberto Clemente Award, making the veteran one of 30 nominees for the national Clemente Award, which recognizes players who best exemplify the game through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions to their teams.