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Rivera breaks left leg in winter league game

Times Staff Writer

An offense in need of additional power lost a big chunk of its existing pop -- and possibly for a significant amount of time -- when Angels designated hitter/outfielder Juan Rivera suffered a broken left tibia in a winter league game in Venezuela on Friday.

His leg was placed in a cast, and he will fly to Miami today to be examined by a trauma specialist, who is expected to determine the severity of the injury and whether Rivera, 28, will need surgery.

Recovery time varies, depending on the nature and location of the fracture. Rivera, who set career highs in average (.310), home runs (23) and runs batted in (85) last season, could be sidelined anywhere from three to eight months, and his chances of being ready for the Angels’ April 2 opener appear slim.

“It’s a real bummer,” Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman said. “He put himself in position in 2006 to be a guy who would be really counted on in 2007.”

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Details were sketchy Friday night, but Stoneman said Rivera, who played 16 games this winter for the Oriente Caribbeans, was injured when he collided with an Aragua Tigers pitcher while running to first base during a game in Maracay, Venezuela.

Because Rivera had not reached certain thresholds for games played and plate appearances last season, the Angels could not block him from playing winter ball.

Rivera’s injury could open up the DH spot for players such as Robb Quinlan, Dallas McPherson and Kendry Morales, and more reserve outfield time for Reggie Willits and Tommy Murphy.

The Angels could also use Chone Figgins, who is penciled in as the starter at third base, to spell Anderson and Guerrero in the outfield, with McPherson or Maicer Izturis filling in at third.

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Or, the Angels could look outside the organization. Among the possibilities are Shea Hillenbrand, Aubrey Huff, Cliff Floyd, Alexis Gomez and Jeromy Burnitz. Stoneman said the Angels have no interest in Sammy Sosa, who hopes to return to the game after a one-year absence.

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The morning commute could be a lot more entertaining for Angels fans next April 16 -- they’ll have the novelty of listening to a game from Fenway Park.

The Boston Red Sox have obtained permission from Major League Baseball and the players’ union to start their Patriots Day game, traditionally an 11 a.m. start, an hour earlier, meaning 7 a.m. on the West Coast.

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The Angels agreed to the move, precipitated by the start of the Boston Marathon being pushed to 10 a.m., after the April 15 game was moved from 2 p.m. to 1 p.m.


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