Figgins Could Stay at Third for a While

Times Staff Writer

With Raul Mondesi set to take over in center field for the Angels as early as tonight against the Boston Red Sox in Angel Stadium, utility player Chone Figgins may have finally found a home.

At least, for now.

The versatile Figgins spent the first month of the season shuttling between shortstop and center field and the second month shuttling between third base and center field -- often in the same game, moving from infield to outfield for defensive purposes in the late innings.

But Saturday’s signing of Mondesi will result in Figgins becoming more of a fixture at third base, a position at which he had never made a major league start before this season.


“He’s going to have some rough edges,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s a terrific infielder at shortstop and second base. He has good hands and good range at those positions.

“Third base is a different animal, but he has the arm and the range and he’s fearless. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be a good third baseman. We’re putting a lot on Figgy, and he’s doing great with it.”

Those rough edges and superior raw skills sometimes show up on the same play. Friday night in Chicago, Figgins made a terrific backhanded, lunging snag of Frank Thomas’ shot down the line, but his throw to first base was wide.

Saturday, however, Figgins gathered a wicked hop to his left on Carlos Lee’s first-inning grounder and made a smooth, accurate throw to first. The more he plays third base, the more comfortable Figgins seems.

“I’m comfortable enough at third to get the job done,” said Figgins, who has filled in for injured center fielder Garret Anderson and shortstop David Eckstein and is now replacing the injured Troy Glaus at third.

“I don’t want to make it too complicated. The more you do that, the more you try to do too much. It’s a reaction position. I’ve got to get to a spot where I’m comfortable when the ball is hit and make the throw. I just want to simplify things.”


If Figgins can stabilize the position and continue to provide an offensive spark -- he’s hitting .287 with 22 runs, 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts and an American League-leading seven triples but has only five hits in his last 29 at-bats -- the Angels may be able to avoid having to trade for a third baseman this summer.


A grounder that took a quirky hop and bounced off his chest for an error Sunday notwithstanding, first baseman Casey Kotchman has begun to show flashes of defensive brilliance that lead the Angels to believe the 21-year-old will eventually be a perennial Gold Glove award candidate.

Saturday night against the White Sox, Kotchman made a diving stop of Ross Gload’s grounder and flipped to pitcher Scot Shields for the out. Friday night, Kotchman slammed into the dugout railing in U.S. Cellular Field as he made a difficult catch of Aaron Rowand’s popup.

While many youngsters are overwhelmed by their first taste of the big leagues, Kotchman was hitting .280 before a one-for-13 skid dropped him to .238 Sunday. Kotchman, however, has two strikeouts in 63 at-bats.

“Casey would not have gotten a look up here if we didn’t feel he would be an asset defensively, and he has been,” Scioscia said. “He’s been terrific in the field. It’s exciting to see a young player who can play both ends of the game like that.”


Misery will have some company tonight when the Angels open a two-game series against the Red Sox. While no team can match the Angels for injuries, Boston comes close -- the Red Sox are still tied with the Yankees for first place in the AL East despite playing without shortstop Nomar Garciaparra (Achilles tendinitis) and right fielder Trot Nixon (strained quadriceps) this season.


Pitching has been the key: Despite Derek Lowe’s struggles -- the right-hander is 4-5 with a 6.84 earned-run average after Monday’s loss -- the Red Sox have an AL-low 3.83 team ERA.

“Their depth, like ours, has surfaced early,” Scioscia said of the Red Sox. “Every championship-caliber club needs depth, and the two important parallels between us is the way we’ve both pitched. Our rotation has been healthy and productive, and they have some terrific arms too.”