The Angels agreed with free-agent first baseman Shea Hillenbrand
on a $6.5 million, one-year contract on Tuesday.
"We've always liked Hillenbrand's bat, and when we got the news
that Rivera was injured and that it might cost him some time into
the season, that provided impetus to get another bat," Angels
general manager Bill Stoneman said on a conference call.
Rivera, injured Friday when he was running to first base and
collided with a pitcher covering the bag, is scheduled to undergo
surgery on his left tibia Wednesday in Florida. It's uncertain how
long he will be sidelined.
Hillenbrand, who split last season between Toronto and San
Francisco, gets $6 million next year, and the Angels hold a $6.5
million option for 2008 with a $500,000 buyout. The option could
become guaranteed based on his plate appearances next season.
Before the deal is finalized, Hillenbrand must pass a physical.
The 31-year-old Hillenbrand hit a combined .277, with a
career-high 21 home runs and 68 RBI in 141 games last season. He
finished with 73 runs and 27 doubles.
He batted .301 and hit 12 homers for the Blue Jays before being
designated for assignment July 19. Hillenbrand had written "play
for yourself" on a board the Blue Jays use to post batting
practice times and later that the "ship was sinking" before
manager John Gibbons challenged him to a fight during a team
Asked how much he knew about the run-in, Stoneman said, "It
wasn't pleasant, but this is a new start for Shea, who fits nicely
into our system. Back when it happened, we had some conversations
[with the Blue Jays], but recently, no. That was the past and it's
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Hillenbrand should provide
some versatility because he could be used at first base, third base
"His bat is what we need now," Scioscia said.
Hillenbrand was traded to the Giants on July 21 for pitchers
Vinnie Chulk and Jeremy Accardo, and hit .248 with nine homers in
60 games with San Francisco. An All-Star in 2002 and 2005,
Hillenbrand has a .287 career average with 104 homers and 459 RBI.
The 28-year-old Rivera had career highs in batting average
(.310), runs (65), hits (139), home runs (23) and RBI (85) last