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David Eckstein says he is not officially retired from baseball

ANGELS FYI

But the former Angels infielder, 36, who got an offer to sign with a club four weeks ago, has made a 'decision not to play.'

June 29, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Former Angels infielder David Eckstein says he recently turned down an offer to return to baseball.
Former Angels infielder David Eckstein says he recently turned down an… (Scott Rovak / EPA )

David Eckstein is not playing baseball, but the scrappy 36-year-old infielder who helped the Angels win the 2002 World Series and won World Series most-valuable-player honors with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 has not officially retired.

Nor has the game retired him, like it has so many veterans who simply fade away.

Eckstein, who played the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the San Diego Padres, got an offer to sign with a club four weeks ago and turned it down.

He said he received more offers — including major league deals — last winter than he ever has a free agent but has spent the last few months working for his wife, actress Ashley Drane, and not diving around infields and driving up pitch counts.

"I made a decision not to play," said Eckstein, who was in Angel Stadium on Wednesday to visit his brother Rick, the Nationals' batting coach.

Are there any physical reasons? "No," Eckstein said.

Asked whether he hoped to play again, Eckstein, who also visited Manager Mike Scioscia and several players in the Angels clubhouse, shrugged his shoulders.

"It totally has to be the right situation, but when you say that, it's like you're disrespecting the clubs that have talked to you," Eckstein said. "This goes so much deeper than you guys will ever know. Talk to Rick if you really want to know the story."

Rick Eckstein, 38, shed a little more light on the situation, but not that much.

Much of David Eckstein's value goes well beyond statistics — his grit and desire, his knowledge of and instincts for the game, his clubhouse leadership, his willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of the team by advancing runners with ground-ball outs.

It appeared several teams focused on Eckstein's statistics, which are not overwhelming — he had a .280 average, .345 on-base percentage and 1,414 hits in 10 big league seasons — and not his overall value.

"I think in this game you get to a point where you know what you can do, and you want to be in a situation where people believe in you," Rick Eckstein said.

"David has been a great attribute to baseball for 10 years. He brings a certain element to every team he's been a part of, and at some point, what he brings, people don't see it as a value. So, he's decided [he won't play]."

Does Rick Eckstein, who seven months ago donated a kidney to another Eckstein brother, Kenny, think David will play again?

"If the right situation presents itself, absolutely," he said. "David knows who he is. It's that simple."

Turf talk

Head groundskeeper Barney Lopas said the Angel Stadium turf installed after the recent U2 concerts "should be OK by the Texas series" July 19-21.

That means the Angels will play 10 more games before the All-Star break on a field that is not up to its usual "pristine" standards, as Scioscia described it.

The Angels and Nationals combined for seven errors Tuesday night, and players from both teams said the infield was faster than normal.

"That's because it's new and the grass hasn't grown," Lopas said. "It's not as thick as it usually is."

Short hops

The ball of Maicer Izturis' right foot flared up again this week, and the infielder was not in the lineup for the second day in a row Wednesday. He was available to pinch-hit and should be ready to start Friday night. … Sunday's game against the Dodgers has been moved to 5 p.m. from 12:30 p.m. to accommodate ESPN.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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