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Depth takes the place of a big bat

ANGELS REPORT

June 11, 2007|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS — The Angels' offensive surge has placed a heavy burden on their opponents and taken some pressure off owner Arte Moreno, whose promise last fall to make a "major move" to address the team's offensive shortcomings never materialized.

The need for a big bat has been mitigated by an offense that before Sunday ranked third in the American League in batting average and fifth in runs, despite the absence of several key players for an extended period this season.

The emergence of Reggie Willits and Mike Napoli, combined with the return of Garret Anderson, Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick from injury and the steady production of Vladimir Guerrero, Orlando Cabrera and Gary Matthews Jr., has made the Angels a formidable offensive threat.

"I think the 'big-bat theory' was sound, but sometimes with the emergence of two or three guys or the re-emergence of two or three guys getting back into their game, it's more than getting that big bat, and I think that's what we're seeing," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're seeing a team-oriented, consistent offense from one through nine."

Does that mean General Manager Bill Stoneman has been absolved of adding more offense before the trading deadline?

"If there's something that makes sense that will improve the club, of course he's going to strongly consider it," Scioscia said. "But where we are on the offensive side right now, I think the offensive depth has emerged, and I think that big bat has been absorbed by three or four guys getting into their game as opposed to one big bat coming over here.

"This offense has much more depth than if you just went out there with one bat right now."

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When Jered Weaver stepped to the plate in the third inning of the Angels' 9-6 loss to St. Louis on Sunday at Busch Stadium with runners on first and second base, it marked the first time the Angels pitcher had batted since high school.

At first, Weaver tried to bunt the runners over before pulling the bat back and fouling off consecutive pitches. He then struck out looking.

"I tried to lay that bunt down on the first pitch and it got on me a little bit," Weaver said. "They put the slash on after that because the infield was in to see if I could poke it by them.

"One foul ball in the stands is my glory, I guess."

*

With Anderson and Casey Kotchman unavailable because of injuries, Scioscia shuffled the lineup by putting Willits back in the leadoff spot and moving Figgins into the second one. The changes bumped Cabrera, Guerrero and Matthews all down one spot from their usual positions in the order.

Willits replaced Anderson in left field and Shea Hillenbrand took Kotchman's spot at first base. Scioscia said Anderson (strained right hip flexor) and Kotchman (bruised elbow) should be available Tuesday when the Angels open a series in Cincinnati.

*

Figgins extended his season-high hitting streak to 10 games with third-inning single and concluded the series by going eight for 17 (.471) with three runs, two runs batted in and five stolen bases.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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