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Rivera is making up for idle time

July 27, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

BALTIMORE -- In May and June, while the Angels averaged 3.7 runs per game and hit .242, Manager Mike Scioscia kept saying the solutions to the team's offensive woes were "in house," while refusing to give the most obvious in-house answer a chance.

But with injured and ineffective Gary Matthews Jr. putting a drag on the lineup, Scioscia finally turned to Juan Rivera in late June, and the outfielder has helped key the team's July surge.

In 16 starts since June 29, Rivera is batting .340 (18 for 53) with five home runs, 12 runs batted in and 10 runs.

In the eighth inning of the Angels' 11-6 victory over Baltimore on Saturday, Rivera smashed a Fernando Cabrera pitch into the left-field seats for a three-run homer to push the Angels' lead to 9-5.

"I knew I would have the opportunity, I kept waiting for it," said Rivera, who batted .310 with 23 home runs and 85 RBIs in 2006 before sitting out most of 2007 because of a broken leg. "I didn't get desperate. I wanted to play, but I'm not one of those guys who goes into the manager's office demanding to play."

Reporters began asking Scioscia in late April why Rivera, who started 13 games in the first three months, wasn't playing more, and the questions continued through May and June.

"It's an easy call now," Scioscia said. "We didn't want to prematurely give up on Gary, and we haven't done that now, but as we saw that [Matthews] wasn't moving in the right direction, this was the course of action to take.

"Juan is getting an opportunity and making the most of it."

Short hops

In addition to his two home runs, five RBIs and four runs Saturday, Torii Hunter raced to the gap in left-center field and caught Kevin Millar's drive before smashing into the wall. Both knees were sore, but Hunter was OK. . . . Garret Anderson scored his 1,000th run, on Rivera's home run. He is the franchise leader in runs.


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