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Gary Matthews Jr. back at Angels camp -- without an 'everyday' job

The outfielder steers clear of criticizing club management but isn't thrilled with being a reserve.

March 31, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

TEMPE, ARIZ. — Gary Matthews Jr. returned to camp Monday, appearing composed during a 10-minute interview in which he expressed his displeasure with his role without criticizing or demonstrating ill will toward his bosses.

Matthews would not say whether he asked for a trade after being told Sunday he would open the season as the Angels' fifth outfielder, but it is clear he is open to a deal.

"I want to play every day," said Matthews, who was given permission to take Sunday off after a lengthy meeting with Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Tony Reagins. "I would like to do that here. . . . But if it's not going to happen, we need to explore different options."

Those options seem limited. With three years and $33 million left on his contract and few teams willing to add payroll, Matthews will be virtually impossible to move unless the Angels eat a huge chunk of his salary.

And the Angels, who like the insurance Matthews provides if an outfielder gets injured, are not about to pay $20 million to $25 million over the next three years for Matthews to play elsewhere.

"We don't know what the options are until we [explore them]," said Matthews, who has a full no-trade clause. "We've had discussions, but I want to keep those private."

Matthews hit .242 with eight home runs and 46 runs batted in during an injury plagued 2008 season, in which he lost his starting job to Juan Rivera in late June.

He underwent surgery to repair the patella tendon in his left knee in October and wasn't expected back until May. But he has already played 13 games this spring, hitting .294 with two homers and 11 RBIs, and he looks good running.

Scioscia and Reagins initiated Sunday's meeting, in which they told Matthews he would trail Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Rivera on the outfield-designated hitter depth chart.

Matthews emerged from the meeting, changed into street clothes and left camp. Matthews said Sunday was "a scheduled day off" because he played the previous five days, but he was on the travel roster for an exhibition against Texas in Surprise, Ariz.

"Based on how I recovered from surgery and how I've performed this spring, my opinion is that I'm an everyday player," Matthews said. "I discussed this [with Scioscia and Reagins]. We agree to disagree at this point."

Asked whether he might become a distraction, Matthews said, "I'm going to have the same approach -- I'm not going to change. These things happen. I can't speak for the future. I can only tell you how I feel right now."

The most important thing "is I've gotten healthy enough to play every day," Matthews said. "Without that, I wouldn't even be here talking. I worked extremely hard to get here, and I don't want to waste it sitting."

March madness

The Angels reached double figures in runs for the sixth time in nine games Monday, pounding out 18 hits in a 13-3 exhibition victory over the Chicago White Sox. They've scored 103 runs and have 134 hits, 26 of them homers, in those nine games.

Kendry Morales had three hits, including a two-run triple and a double, to improve his spring average to .394 with three homers, nine doubles and 15 RBIs.

Mike Napoli and Erick Aybar hit home runs, and Vladimir Guerrero hit a three-run double.

Aybar is batting .477 with three homers and nine extra-base hits this spring.

Jered Weaver, who has been battling back stiffness, went six innings, giving up three runs -- two earned -- and five hits in 90 pitches.

Weaver will remain in Arizona after the Angels break camp Wednesday to throw 100 pitches in a minor league game Saturday.

Short hops

Joe Saunders, who is expected to start the April 6 season opener, threw 92 pitches in a minor league game Monday, giving up five runs and 10 hits. . . . Napoli, recovering from shoulder surgery, caught five innings, the first time he has caught in consecutive games this spring. It appears he'll be ready to catch opening day.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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