Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Hideki Matsui taking defensive drills
By Jerry Crasnick
Hideki Matsui didn't play an inning in the outfield with the New York Yankees last year because of knee problems. But he's made it clear that he wants to break out his glove with the Los Angeles Angels, rather than spend all of his time at designated hitter.
The Angels are receptive to the idea, and the early results have been encouraging. Matsui has taken part in some of the less challenging outfield drills early in spring training in Tempe, Ariz. But the Angels have refrained from setting a timetable for him to play outfield in Cactus League games.
"It's open-ended,'' manager Mike Scioscia said Tuesday. "We're not going to put a schedule or a date to this. It's gonna be where Hideki is when he gets out there in the outfield. He might go out and have a setback and we'll have to evaluate, or he might go and take off and run with it. We don't know.''
Right now, the Angels are looking at an outfield of Juan Rivera in left field, Torii Hunter in center and Bobby Abreu in right, with Matsui as their primary DH.
In the best-case scenario, Scioscia said Matsui would be able to play a "couple of days a week in the outfield.'' That would give Scioscia some flexibility with the DH spot and allow him to work in periodic rest for Abreu, who turns 36 this month.
At a news conference announcing his signing during the offseason, Matsui, the 2009 World Series MVP, said he wished to play outfield again.
"I'd like to prove I can play defense at spring training," Matsui said on Dec. 30. "It will be difficult to play defense every day like in the past, but I'd like to reach the point where I'm able to play defense once every few games."
Matsui hit .274 with 28 homers and 90 RBIs last season as a DH. He was selected World Series MVP despite starting only three of the six games against Philadelphia, going 8 for 13 (.615) with three homers and eight RBIs and tying a Series record by driving in six runs in Game 6.
Jerry Crasnick is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.