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This duo thrives together

September 21, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jeff Mathis has been behind the plate for all but five of Ervin Santana's 30 starts this season and pitching coach Mike Butcher said he's pleased with the rapport the two have developed.

"Their numbers show that they've worked well together," Butcher said. "That's primarily the reason why. It's not like that's his personal catcher. It's nothing like that.

"It's just that they work well together, they've done well together and we're going to keep it that way."

With Mathis starting, Santana is 13-4 with a 2.98 earned-run average and two complete games, including a shutout. With Mike Napoli, Santana is 2-1 with a 4.68 ERA. (Ryan Budde was paired once with Santana, in a 5-2 loss to Baltimore.) Mathis and Santana broke in together in 2001 at Provo, Utah, of the rookie-level Pioneer League and have played together every year since, something Mathis says has helped them bond.

"We came up through the ranks together and we've been through a lot of innings," he said. "It does help to get on the same page when you're catching a guy every time. Just because you're with him every inning."

Santana diplomatically refuses to pick favorites, saying he's happy throwing to both catchers.

"Whoever's catching does a great job," he said with a smile. "We talk before the game and we're on the same page. It doesn't matter."

Yankee Stadium memories

Yankee Stadium will play host to its final baseball game tonight. And though Angels Manager Mike Scioscia has many fond memories of the 85-year-old ballpark, he's not sorry to see it go.

"It's time," Scioscia said. "It's an historic ballpark and the tradition of the organization, the Yankees, is something that will carry over to whatever ballpark they go to. But it was time."

As a high school senior, Scioscia worked out for the Yankees at the stadium before being selected by the Dodgers in the first round of the 1976 draft. Scioscia also played in a World Series at Yankee Stadium and managed the Angels in the playoffs there.

"That was an incredible thrill for me. There's a connection," he said. "[But] the new one is going to be something that's spectacular. It's just the way things move on."

Rotation roulette

Scioscia hasn't said whether he'll use a three- or four-man rotation in the first round of the playoffs. What's certain, however, is he won't need five starters and Friday's poor outing in Texas could have right-hander Jon Garland headed for the bullpen.

"That's a decision I don't have to make. And I'm not going to worry about it," said Garland, who gave up nine runs in the third inning of a game the Angels rallied to win.

If Scioscia decides to go with four starters, he'll have to choose between Garland and Jered Weaver for the final spot behind John Lackey, Joe Saunders and Santana. One deciding factor could be Garland's experience coming out of the bullpen since his 23 relief appearances are more than the rest of the Angels starters combined.


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