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ANGELS SPRING REPORT

Hideki Matsui proves to be a big media magnet

Japanese outfielder, in his first season with the Angels, is followed by a throng of reporters every day.

February 24, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — Bench coach Ron Roenicke, who works with the team's outfielders, was told by communications manager Eric Kay onTuesday that a Japanese reporter wanted to speak to him about Hideki Matsui's first practice with the Angels.

Moments later, Roenicke was swarmed by 30 to 40 reporters, photographers and camera operators, turning it into a media event.

"E.K. said one guy wanted to talk to me, and all of a sudden there was a whole group there," Roenicke said. "I guess that's how it's going to be."

Roenicke, who said he has never addressed a larger group of media members, figured it might be like this because after leaving the club's spring training complex Monday, he saw Matsui had drawn a crowd.

"I walked around the corner and there were 30, 40 guys following him," Roenicke said. "I said, 'Whoa! He's just leaving the parking lot, driving away.' So, it's going to be an interesting year, I think."

Matsui, 35, took batting practice and participated in some light fielding drills Tuesday, but with a pair of arthritic knees that will probably relegate him to designated hitter, the Angels will ease him into action this spring.

"One guy asked if we held him back, and I said no, he can do everything," Roenicke said.

"But I've had bad knees, and there are certain drills I know are tough on your knees, so we'll try to keep him off his feet as much as we can."

Getting defensive

There is an assumption that Brandon Wood must hit for average with some power to hold down the third base job, but Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said that Wood's glove could keep him in the lineup through some dry spells with the bat.

"He's a Gold Glove-caliber guy," Scioscia said of Wood, a .192 hitter with 74 strikeouts and seven walks in 224 big league at-bats scattered over three seasons. "He has good range, good reactions. That's going to be one thing in Woody's favor. He has the makings of a terrific defender."

Wood, who joined the Angels for their first full-squad workout Tuesday, will likely share time with the switch-hitting Maicer Izturis at third. The position could evolve into a platoon, but Wood is expected to get first crack at the everyday job.

"He gives us an important presence at third, which might take a little pressure off of what he has to do to still contribute," Scioscia said. "We do need production from that spot. If we have to ease him off a bit, if he's pressing, we'll maybe let him run with some things. He'll get enough playing time to contribute and continue to develop."

Scioscia called the Angels' left-side defense last year -- Erick Aybar at shortstop and Chone Figgins at third -- "a difference-maker" and expects that "to continue this season, whether it's Izzy or Wood at third."

Back to the fold

A resume that included six years as a big league utility player and a decent career average of .281 didn't count for much in the free-agent market this winter, so Robb Quinlan accepted a minor league deal Feb. 11 to return to the Angels.

"It's definitely a surprise being back here, but it's a pleasant surprise," said Quinlan, who can play the corner infield as well as outfield spots. "I felt this was the best opportunity to make the major leagues."

It is a demotion for the 33-year-old who had guaranteed major league contracts the previous three years, but Quinlan didn't have a choice. The only other teams interested in him, the Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies, offered minor league deals as well.

"A lot of people have asked if this changes my mentality, but it hasn't," Quinlan said. "I'm here to have fun and play hard, and I'll do everything I have to do."

If Quinlan doesn't make the team, he will go back to triple-A Salt Lake "because I still love playing baseball," he said. "I hope it's not triple A, but you never know what's going to happen."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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