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GM says Matthews is onboard

Reagins is confident that outfielder will accept a move from center to accommodate Hunter.

November 23, 2007|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Angels General Manager Tony Reagins came away from a 10-minute phone conversation with Gary Matthews Jr. on Thursday confident that the veteran would accept a demotion from center field to the corner outfield spots to clear room for Torii Hunter.

"He's a professional," Reagins said of Matthews. "He's thinking about his new role, and like a lot of people who are caught by surprise, he's still digesting it. But the bottom line is he wants to win. He reacted the way I thought he would react. It went well."

Matthews is one of baseball's best center fielders, known for his ability to make highlight-reel plays, but he is a shade below Hunter, a seven-time Gold Glove Award winner who agreed to terms on a five-year, $90-million contract with the Angels on Wednesday night.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Hunter, who is expected to travel to Anaheim for a physical and a news conference next week, will be the regular center fielder, to be spelled occasionally by Matthews, who is entering the second year of a five-year, $50-million contract.

Matthews will split time between left field and right field, with corner outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson rotating through the designated hitter's spot, which should help keep those two veteran players fresh.

Matthews emerged as a superb defensive center fielder in Texas from 2004 to 2006, but he has also spent considerable time during his eight-year career in right field (214 games) and left field (129 games). He has played 650 games in center.

"It's not going to be a huge adjustment for Gary," Scioscia said. "We'll be able to move some guys around, and having Torii will give us a special look in the outfield. Gary will do whatever it takes to win. I'm sure he'll be onboard with it."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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