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Hideki Matsui keeps dropping in lineup; will he fall all the way out?

ANGELS FYI

The slumping designated hitter, who began the season in the cleanup spot, is now No. 7 in batting order. And when catcher Jeff Mathis comes off the DL next month, the Angels will have the option of moving hot-hitting Mike Napoli to DH.

May 24, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Hideki Matsui was dropped from the cleanup spot to the fifth spot on May 3, from fifth to sixth on May 14, and from sixth to seventh Monday night.

If the designated hitter doesn't snap out of his monthlong slump, he might be in danger of being dropped from the lineup altogether.

Matsui, 35, was batting .310 with four home runs, six doubles and 11 runs batted in on April 24. In his next 24 games, he hit .152 (12 for 79) with one homer, one double and 11 RBIs, a skid that dropped his average to .226 entering Monday.

Catcher Jeff Mathis, sidelined since April 20 because of a broken bone in his right wrist, threw to second base and hit off a tee Monday and hopes to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment early next week.

When Mathis returns in June the Angels will have the option of moving catcher Mike Napoli, their hottest hitter with a .318 average, six homers and 14 RBIs this month entering Monday, to designated hitter.

That would make the Angels stronger behind the plate — Mathis is a better defensive catcher than Napoli — and at DH.

"If a guy is swinging the bat well," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "we would want to get him more at-bats."

But that doesn't mean Scioscia has given up on Matsui, who hit .241 last May and .204 last June before finishing with a .274 average, 28 homers and 90 RBIs for the New York Yankees.

"His track record — and I mean recent track record, not seven years ago — is clear," Scioscia said. "Maybe his timing is not right, maybe he hasn't squared balls up on a consistent basis, but he's shown that it's in there; he was our best hitter the first three weeks of the season. We're confident he's going to be productive."

Matsui said through an interpreter that he "feels good physically," though one has to wonder whether his arthritic knees aren't a factor in his struggles.

"The results just aren't there," Matsui said, "so I'm going to have to keep working until they are."

Wood to the DL?

There are strong indications that Brandon Wood will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday or Wednesday because of a hip flexor strain, a setback that will give the struggling third baseman a chance to find his swing in the minor leagues.

Wood, who is batting .156 with two homers, one double, seven runs batted in, 36 strikeouts and two walks in 122 at-bats, was not in the lineup for the third straight game Monday.

Scioscia wants to give Wood a chance to "catch his breath mentally and physically." Asked to elaborate, Scioscia said Wood "has a little hip flexor."

Maicer Izturis, sidelined since May 6 because of a sore shoulder, is expected to be activated Tuesday or Wednesday. Though he can play third, shortstop and second, Izturis is expected to get most of his starts at third, pushing Wood to the bench.

Wood is out of minor league options, meaning he would have to clear waivers before the Angels could send him to triple A.

But by putting Wood on the DL, the Angels could extend his mental break and then send him on a minor league rehab assignment, perhaps a lengthy one, to give him a chance to find his stroke in a low-pressure environment.

"You never want to say [going to the minor leagues] will help, because every day I come to the park I think this is going to be the day I get my hits and it all turns around," Wood said. "But you never know. A change of pace might help."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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