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Torii Hunter: Chone Figgins should be All-Star

ANGELS FYI

Outfielder says third baseman deserves to play in the July 14 game at St. Louis.

June 28, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

PHOENIX — Chone Figgins' name is plastered all over the American League leaderboard, ranking fifth in batting average (.321), sixth in on-base percentage (.401), sixth in runs (54), eighth in hits (89) and fourth in stolen bases (23).

About the only place you won't find the Angels third baseman is among the top vote getters at his position in balloting for the July 14 All-Star game in St. Louis, a snub that Torii Hunter, who appears to be a lock for his third All-Star berth, hopes is rectified.

"I definitely want Figgy in there," Hunter said of Figgins, who has started at six different positions in the big leagues.

"It would be good to have someone as versatile as him in a National League park. If you've got to play an NL style of baseball, Figgy could be even more valuable," he added.

Of the five top AL vote getters at third base -- Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria, New York's Alex Rodriguez, Texas' Michael Young, Boston's Mike Lowell and Detroit's Brandon Inge -- only Longoria (.312, 16 home runs, 62 runs batted in) and Inge (.274, 17 home runs, 49 RBIs) are having All-Star-caliber seasons.

If Figgins, who can become a free agent after this season, is to secure his first berth in an All-Star game, the switch-hitter will have to be voted in by the players, who are casting ballots this weekend, or selected by Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon, the former Angels bench coach.

The selection of Figgins would not only validate him as one of the top leadoff batters in the game, but it would be another signal in baseball's subtle shift away from the power that dominated the steroids era and toward the little ball more teams are embracing.

"You can see the game turning," Hunter said. "Power is always going to be there, but now you have guys stealing five and six bases a game, taking bases on balls in the dirt -- it's a different style of game, and that helps guys like Figgy make the All-Star team.

"He hits singles, he runs well, he goes from first to third on hits -- he just plays a good game of baseball. Some people don't realize how valuable that guy is. He's versatile, he has speed, and he's an athlete. Those are the guys you want to keep around."

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Escape artist

John Lackey's pitching line Saturday -- seven innings, one unearned run, five hits, three walks, eight strikeouts -- was impressive, but it could have been worse had the Angels right-hander not escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first inning.

Lackey gave up a one-out single to Stephen Drew and walked Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds, but Gerardo Parra hit a one-hop smash to the mound that Lackey snagged and threw to catcher Mike Napoli to start a double play.

"I threw a few too many breaking balls early in the game and got into trouble," Lackey said. "Fortunately, I was able to get out of that jam with the comebacker. Those are the kinds of breaks I haven't been getting."

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Looking ahead

When the Angels start a three-game series at Texas on Monday, they will face the same three right-handers they faced the last time they played the Rangers, when they were swept in a three-game set and outscored, 18-11, in Texas on May 15-17.

Pitching matchups for the series: Sean O'Sullivan versus Vicente Padilla, Joe Saunders versus Scott Feldman and Jered Weaver versus Kevin Millwood .

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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