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Matthews leaves these questions unanswered

There was a bottle of clear liquid in Mr. HGH’s locker before the Angels’ opener, but I can only guess what it might’ve been since Gary Matthews wasn’t talking to Page 2.

He had a big hug for Texas’ Sammy Sosa, and I would’ve asked what they had in common, but he kept turning his body away from me. It was like I was dating again.

Never met the guy before Monday, but when I said something, Matthews looked to the Daily News’ Kevin Modesti or San Diego’s Chris Jenkins and asked, “Do you have a question for me?”

Modesti wanted to know about the support Matthews was going to get from his family now that he was playing close to home, and Jenkins was just as tough on him. As I told Jenkins later, I was proud of him for not asking for his autograph.

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Each time I questioned Matthews, though, it was like he had just been struck dumb. Who knew the Angels had signed Kevin Brown during the off-season? That reminds me, I never did get to ask Brown about the clear liquid that he had been rumored to be using.

I INTENDED to write about Garret Anderson, a healthy Anderson for the first time since 2003 and the key role that I thought he might play this season in making the Angels successful.

We chatted for a long time, and Anderson was laughing, and I’m not making this up: He said fans should expect him to have a good year, because he expects it of himself, and gave me permission to rip him if he falters, although that was unnecessary.

Then I stopped by Matthews’ locker to see what he was like -- taking for granted the Angels would’ve advised the pro to act professional when asked the obvious questions. Instead, he reacted like Harpo Marx with an attitude.

Channel 7’s Curt Sandoval requested by e-mail to interview Matthews, because like a number of the media here, he never got the chance to go to Arizona. “That’s why I’m here tonight,” Sandoval said.

The Angels don’t allow cameras in the clubhouse, and when it came time for TV types to interview players, the team declined to make him available. One simple comment like, “I can’t do anything about what’s happened in the past, but I can give fans something to cheer about this season,” would’ve probably been enough.

Matthews, now occupying Darin Erstad’s locker, which is a disgrace when you consider what a stand-up guy Erstad was here, begged Modesti to ask a question after I said, “Do you think you have to earn the fans’ respect here after being Mr. HGH” this spring?

I asked Matthews whether I needed to ask some nice questions to get an answer, and he turned to Jenkins and said, “You have anything for me?”

I thought that’s how he got in trouble -- officials alleging that he had gone online asking the same question from someone willing to fill an illegal prescription.

I asked Matthews whether he was familiar with Ryan Leaf, since Matthews reminded me of the punk, and got nothing. I asked him whether the questions were too tough, and got nothing. Now he began to remind me of Mike Garrett.

He told Jenkins, “Growing up in this game helps me deal with things,” and so I said, “Didn’t growing up in this game help you to deal with tough questions?”

“I’ve got nothing to say to you; you started off on the wrong foot,” said Matthews, who signed a $50-million contract to spend the next five years filling up Page 2. “Maybe next time you will start off on the right foot.”

I have no doubt he would’ve preferred I dance around the No. 1 question, but I got the impression he would’ve still demanded to lead.

Angels owner Arte Moreno insisted Matthews speak to him and everyone else after the drug allegations surfaced, but then rolled over like nothing had happened when Matthews delivered a statement that never addressed the accusations. That statement got Moreno and Matthews off the hook.

Matthews said in his statement, “I have never taken HGH,” and had he said he used the stuff, he might’ve been hit with a 50-game suspension. Since baseball doesn’t test for HGH, there is no way any one could have proved different. He could be taking the stuff right now, and no one could prove different.

But that’s not what he was accused of -- his name was linked to an investigation into illegal prescriptions, and he has yet to deny it. The obvious question: If Matthews received a prescription for HGH, why get it and not use it?

“I ordered Avodart [hair-loss treatment] and it’s been sitting in my closet for six years,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He made it very clear he didn’t use it.”

Scioscia said he has never asked Matthews why he might get a prescription for HGH and then not use it.

“Don’t glare at me,” Scioscia joked. “That’s the look Sister Camela gave me in second grade.”

Moreno, meanwhile, made it clear before the first game he wants to put a happy face on the Angels right now, although Matthews still hasn’t come clean.

Angels fans also seemed willing to move on, apparently buying Matthews’ clever dodge while hoping for the best. They got the chance early on to cheer a leaping Matthews catch, and I’m just glad I got a closer look at the clear liquid Mr. HGH had in his locker, because otherwise I might’ve attributed his heroics to something other than water.

Now if there was something in the water -- here’s hoping the rest of the Angels get an occasional sip.

TODAY’S LAST word comes from Vin Scully during the Dodgers’ opener:

“If there is weakness, it’s on the arm of Juan Pierre,” said Scully in the bottom of the first -- the first of several critical remarks aimed at Pierre.

You know you’re off to a bad start when Scully nails you before Page 2.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers @latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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