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ANGELS FYI

Chone Figgins is a wanted man

Angels third baseman is at the top of many free-agent shopping lists, including the White Sox and Yankees.

September 10, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

Speculation has already begun in Chicago and New York. The White Sox need a versatile defender who can lead off, the Cubs need more speed and on-base ability at the top of the order, the Yankees want a leadoff man to push Derek Jeter to the second spot.

And Chone Figgins, the Angels' third baseman and leadoff batter extraordinaire, is at the top of each team's winter shopping list.

"It's always good to be wanted," said Figgins, who will become a free agent after the season. "But when you find a home, you want to stay here. I love what this organization is all about -- winning, playing hard. I love being here."

The Angels hold exclusive negotiating rights to Figgins for 15 days after the World Series, and if they want to retain the player who entered Wednesday with a .304 average and a league-leading 104 runs and 89 walks, they would be wise to strike early.

If big-market teams such as the Yankees, Cubs and White Sox get involved, it could drive Figgins' price beyond $10 million a year.

"I'm not worried about that now," Figgins said. "All that stuff is going to work out as long as I go out and keep playing."

Figgins, 31, who is making $5.775 million this season, does not seem inclined to give the Angels a hometown discount. "Who came up with that term?" he said. "I wouldn't say anything about that."

But he doesn't seem eager to leave Anaheim for Chicago or New York.

"It's a different world than here," Figgins said. "Not to say those places are bad, but here is what my game is all about. The guys they bring in fit the program. You get used to winning, and that's a great feeling. It doesn't matter how much money you have there."

Best of the West?

It is a statistical oddity. The Angels entered play Wednesday with a 4 1/2 -game lead in the American League West but a 19-23 record against division opponents Texas (3-9), Seattle (8-9) and Oakland (8-5).

The Rangers are 24-13 against the West. The Angels were 24-12 against the AL East and 25-16 against the AL Central.

The difference between them and Texas? The Angels went 14-4 in interleague play, while the Rangers were 9-9.

"That's surprising," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "We've been getting beat down in our division, but all that matters is our overall record, and we've been getting the job done."

Fourteen of the Angels' last 24 games, including seven against Texas, are against division foes.

"We need to do better," Figgins said, "because divisional wins are huge down the stretch."

Jam session

Much as he did July 28, when he replaced Brian Fuentes with Jason Bulger in time to preserve a 7-6 victory over Cleveland, Manager Mike Scioscia pulled his struggling closer in the ninth inning Tuesday night before too much damage was done.

Fuentes gave up a tying homer to Mike Sweeney and walked two, but Scioscia did not hesitate going to Bulger, who escaped the jam. The Angels beat Seattle, 3-2, in 10 innings.

"It seems like the more he's out there searching for something, the more he gets away from what he needs to do," Scioscia said of Fuentes. "Instead of him grinding it out for another 10-12 pitches, it was time to go with a different look."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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