The Angels can count on Vladimir Guerrero in the playoffs, but they can't count on him in right field.
Guerrero's arm injury has lingered for two weeks now, and the playoffs start in another two weeks. Manager Mike Scioscia raised the possibility Wednesday that Guerrero might be restricted to designated hitter when the playoffs open.
"Our goal is to get him ready to play the outfield," Scioscia said. "When it happens, it happens.
"It's not day to day. I don't know if it's going to be five days from now, six days from now, two weeks from now. If he makes progress, things could turn quickly."
Guerrero says he has intensified therapy and hopes to test his arm today. He said he was "a long way off" from worrying about the playoffs.
As a right fielder this season, he is hitting .345, with an on-base plus slugging percentage of .986. As a DH, he is hitting .257, with an OPS of .803.
"It took me a couple days to get used to it, to know I would be relegated to that role," he said through interpreter Jose Mota. "I want to get back to right field. But I'm used to that routine now."
In an effort to ease the strain on Guerrero's back and knees, the Angels have slowly increased his time at DH. His total at-bats at DH during his career in Anaheim are 49 in 2004, 71 in 2005, 113 last year and 140 so far this year.
The Angels have used Chone Figgins as their primary right fielder in Guerrero's absence, but Figgins still cannot bat right-handed because his left hand is too sore, one month after injuring the hand on a swing. He tried to bunt against a left-handed reliever Tuesday, batting left-handed, and struck out.
Juan Rivera started in right field Wednesday and homered against Tampa Bay left-hander J.P. Howell. Rivera hit 23 home runs last season, second on the team to Guerrero. He broke a leg in winter ball, sat out the first five months this season and finally rejoined the team this month. He had one hit in his first 13 at-bats, but he has three hits in his last seven at-bats, including two home runs.The Angels are 17-19 in games started by left-handers, and they face two more tonight and Friday. Rivera could find his way into an October lineup, at DH or in right field.
"We want to get his bat in there as often as we can," Scioscia said. "It gives us a little different dimension than we've had, especially against lefties. Hopefully, he can give us a boost."
The Angels have the best home record in the majors, at 52-25, and they could enjoy home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The American League team with the best overall record earns that reward, and the Angels and Cleveland Indians are tied at 90-62, half a game ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
The Angels should draw the Red Sox or New York Yankees in the first round. Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon, the former Angels bench coach, sees plenty of Boston and New York in the AL East and likes the Angels' chances.
"Their swarming offense, when that thing is going on, they're hard to stop," Maddon said. "Both those two pitching staffs -- the Yankees and Red Sox -- are not really built to stop the running game necessarily, so I think they can apply a lot of pressure, but they have to get on first base first of all.
"In this ballpark, they're very good. When they're here, they're going to be very tough to beat. On the road is where the Red Sox and Yankees are going to have to beat them, so I think home-court advantage for the Angels is huge."