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Eckstein Should Return Friday

The only bad news for David Eckstein is that this won’t be the year he plays 162 games.

“I want to do that one of these years,” the Angel shortstop said.

He can still at least dream of playing 160 this season after tests determined the injury to his left knee is only a slight sprain.

Eckstein--who appeared in 153 games last season--is expected to return to the lineup Friday against Minnesota after missing his first game of the season Tuesday and also sitting out Wednesday.

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Manager Mike Scioscia hoped to take advantage of today’s day off to get extra rest for his leadoff man.

“With a day off it would be a good idea to hold him back and hopefully give him another two days to get back to where he needs to be,” Scioscia said.

“You know, any time they say MRI you kind of shudder because a lot of times those things come back with some information you don’t want to hear. But we got a good report from Dr. [Lewis] Yocum. It’s just a slight sprain and it should be day to day, so we’re looking for Friday.”

Eckstein, who injured his knee sliding Monday, allowed that a little rest could be beneficial.

“There’s no way I’d ever ask for a day off, but sometimes a day off is the best thing for you,” he said as he tried to get used to the idea of watching from the dugout Wednesday night.

Tuesday night, he left the stadium to be examined.

“We had a Palm Pilot, so we kept checking [the score],” he said.

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The Angels returned from their six-game trip with only three losses since April 23 only to be greeted by crowds in the 14,000-16,500 range for their series against Kansas City.

“I think it’s more the dynamics of what’s going on--school’s not out, and I think historically crowds are smaller at the beginning of the year,” Scioscia said. “We have 15,000 fans, but they’re hard core.

“Hopefully, we keep the winning up--and it’s not winning two or three weeks, it’s getting to the playoffs, becoming perennial contenders. That’s what we think we have the opportunity to do in our organization because we have a lot of positive signs with some pitching in the minor leagues, which is a key component. And with the nice mix up here of youth and productive veterans, we think we’re going to be contenders.

“I think you have to do that to start a tradition over the long term to get that fan base where it needs to be--and right now we haven’t accomplished that.”

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