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Angels' Jeff Mathis has a season to forget

ANGELS FYI

The catcher, who sat out two months because of an injury, has struggled at the plate and in trying to throw out base-stealers.

September 23, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

He was a playoff hero in 2009, batting .534 (eight for 15) with five doubles, one of them a game-winner, in seven postseason games, but 2010 has amounted to a six-month-long 0 for 3 for catcher Jeff Mathis.

"The name of the game is staying healthy, being on the field and producing," Mathis said. "Those are three things I didn't do this year."

Those comments came before Wednesday night's 2-1, 12-inning loss to the Texas Rangers, which pushed the Angels to the brink of elimination in the American League West.

Mathis felt even worse after the usually reliable defender allowed the Rangers to score the winning run on a passed ball, a Matt Palmer fastball that nicked off the catcher's glove, allowing Jeff Francoeur to race home.

There was no cross-up.

"I just missed it," Mathis said. "His fastball has a natural cut. I misjudged where it was going, and it didn't hit the pocket."

It has been that kind of season — more miss than hit — for Mathis, who hoped to build on his playoff performance but has regressed from 2009, when he hit .211 with five home runs and 28 runs batted in.

Mathis, who sat out two months from mid-April to mid-June because of a broken bone in his right wrist, enters a series against the Chicago White Sox with a .189 average, three homers, 18 RBIs, 58 strikeouts and six walks in 196 at-bats.

Though he has flashed his agility fielding bunts, he has thrown out only seven of 48 base-stealers, a success rate of 14.6%.

"Any time you miss two months, it's going to get you out of your rhythm, but it's how you handle it," Mathis said. "I didn't come out of it as quickly as I needed to.

"The injury was nagging. It didn't bother me as much throwing as hitting, but I didn't throw out the number of guys I should have. I want to improve that. And I have to get back to a consistent stroke and cut down my strikeouts, for sure."

With Kendry Morales (broken left lower leg) expected back next season, fill-in first baseman Mike Napoli, barring a trade, moving back to catcher, and young catcher Hank Conger showing promise, Mathis is no lock to return to his catching time-share in 2011.

"That's always the case here," Mathis said of the competition. "But that doesn't change the way I go about the off-season. I'll prepare myself the same way, come in and try to win the job."

Short hops

Fans are invited to attend the team's 50th anniversary celebration kickoff Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Angel Stadium's home plate gate. Current and former players will discuss their place in club history with the team's broadcasters, and fans will have the opportunity to win prizes. … The Angels passed 3 million in attendance Wednesday, the eighth straight season in which they have drawn at least 3 million fans. Only the New York Yankees and Dodgers have matched that streak.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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