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Angels absorb more blows

Chone Figgins, who sits out the team's 3-2 loss to Oakland, will return to the Southland for an MRI test on his right elbow.

September 18, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- An Angels infield that was already in a state of flux because of an injury to second baseman Howie Kendrick and some uncertainty surrounding shortstop Erick Aybar became even more fluid Wednesday.

Third baseman Chone Figgins will return to Southern California this morning for X-rays and an MRI test on his right elbow, which was hit by a Carl Pavano fastball Sept. 8 and remained too sore Wednesday for him to play the field.

"I'm wondering why the soreness isn't going away -- that's my concern," Figgins said before the Angels' 3-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics at McAfee Coliseum. "It's not going away with ice and the usual [treatment]. They just want to check it out."

Figgins sat out three games after being hit just above his elbow bone and below his triceps. He pinch-ran Friday and started at designated hitter twice over the weekend.

Figgins returned to third base Tuesday night against Oakland, and though he didn't field any grounders or make any throws, his elbow still stiffened up Wednesday.

The playoffs begin in two weeks for the Angels, who clinched the American League West title last week, and a healthy Figgins would go a long way toward solidifying the team's infield.

Kendrick, out since Aug. 28 because of a left hamstring strain, suffered a minor setback while running last week and won't return until next week -- the last week of the regular season -- at the earliest.

Kendrick remains questionable for the playoffs, and the Angels are formulating contingency plans if he is not available or suffers a setback in the first round.

Manager Mike Scioscia said he would consider moving Figgins, a super utility player in his first four big league seasons, to second base and using Brandon Wood or Robb Quinlan at third.

Figgins has been working out at second, and Scioscia plans to start him there a few times next week "just to acclimate himself with the position," he said. "We may need to tap into his versatility."

Though Figgins has made all but seven of his 104 starts in the field this season at third base, he is confident he could make the transition to the right side of the infield.

Scioscia hasn't approached Figgins about a switch, "but he knows my mind-set," Figgins said, "that I will be ready for anything if needed."

The toughest part of the move would be turning the double play.

"Before, when I was jumping around all the time, it didn't look different from that side of the field," Figgins said. "But being on the left side all season and then going over there is a huge difference."

Scioscia could also keep Figgins at third and start slick-fielding Sean Rodriguez at second, an alignment "that would give us the best range defensively," Scioscia said. "It will depend on some of the offensive matchups."

If Kendrick can't play, Scioscia also said he would consider moving Aybar to second, a position he excelled at last season, and starting Wood at shortstop.

In Aybar's absence, Wood made 16 starts at shortstop, showing excellent range, soft hands, a strong arm, and an ability to turn the double play.

"This is the best we've seen from Brandon," Scioscia said. "We've only seen glimpses of it before, but since he came back [to the big leagues] at the end of August, he's a much more confident, comfortable player.

"We're seeing a player with a very high ceiling who is beginning to creep toward that. He covers more ground than you think, and he's very smooth. No question, he's a legitimate major league shortstop."

But as good as Wood has been, it's highly doubtful he will displace Aybar, who made his second straight start Wednesday night after sitting out 17 games because of a strained left hamstring.

Aybar singled once in three at-bats and played five innings on defense, fielding the two grounders hit to him cleanly and turning a double play in the first inning.

"At the level Erick has played all season," Scioscia said, "he gives us an important look at shortstop."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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