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Wood out of the lineup ... for one night

4/23/2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Brandon Wood’s name was not in Friday night’s lineup against the New York Yankees, but his absence did not signal a major shift in the team’s approach to the struggling young third baseman.

At least not yet.

“He’ll play tomorrow and we’ll keep tracking him,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Scioscia has contemplated giving Wood a three- to four-day break from playing to ease the pressure and to allow him to take extra batting practice, but he said it hasn’t quite reached that point. In his first chance at an everyday job, Wood is batting a league-low .087 and has struck out 15 times in 46 at-bats.

Wood’s psychology goes in cycles, from a confidence that he’ll emerge from this rut to a simmering frustration. After striking out twice against Justin Verlander on Thursday -- once on a waist-high 97-mph fastball and once on a slider in the dirt -- Wood was back to being frustrated.

“It’s not me up at the plate right now. I realize that and I know that I’m better than what I’m showing,” Wood said. “It makes me want to get out and work hard to figure this thing out.”

Wood is a .286 lifetime hitter in the minor leagues and he mashed a record 43 home runs at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2005, but he’s not in the minor leagues any more. The Angels still haven’t determined if he can adjust to the challenge of facing major leaguers on a nightly basis. Wood’s career average in the majors is .174 in 270 at-bats.

“You never know until a player goes out there and does it,” Scioscia said. “It’s like an astronaut. You can go and train all you want, but you won’t know what happens once you go out there to outer space.”

The Angels allowed other young players, such as Kendry Morales and Howie Kendrick, to emerge from early struggles, but they don’t have the option of demoting Wood to Triple-A while he figures it out. He’s out of options. Wood doesn’t think the superior pitching is the issue.

“I’m not up here feeling like I’m overmatched,” he said. “I just feel like I’m not myself.”

Wood, 25, took early batting practice Friday and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said his swing is gradually coming around. At this point, it’s more of a mental challenge, Hatcher said.

“You don’t do the things that he did and not be successful, but this level can beat you up a little bit,” Hatcher said. “He’s not like a young kid coming into an organization to develop. You’re in an organization that’s about winning. Sometimes the pressure is forced on you a little bit more.”

KNEE CHECK

Hideki Matsui had his most action-packed night in left field in nearly two years on Thursday night and he said he woke up Friday without any extra pain in his arthritic left knee, but that doesn’t mean Matsui has proven to himself that he can be an outfielder again.

“I think it’s more of a progressive think, little by little gaining confidence,” Matsui said through an interpreter. “If something goes bad, it will be a regression.”