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Hillenbrand looks to play or leave

Times Staff Writer

Shea Hillenbrand wants out. Not because of the organization, the manager, the city, the stadium, the fans, the weather, his teammates -- all are top notch, the Angels’ deposed designated hitter said.

It’s the situation. He was an everyday player for six years, and now he’s not, the combination of his sluggish bat and the emergence of left fielder Reggie Willits and first baseman Casey Kotchman as key contributors reducing Hillenbrand to a bit player, an insurance policy, really, in case a starter gets injured.

“I feel like I’m being pushed aside, put on a back-burner, and I don’t like that at all,” Hillenbrand, 31, said. “If I’m not going to play here, give me enough respect to trade me or get rid of me. I think I deserve that.”

If Manager Mike Scioscia “doesn’t think I can help this team, there are teams out there I can help,” Hillenbrand continued. “I’m a quality player in the prime of my career. To go from playing every day to not playing at all, it’s very disheartening.”

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The New York Yankees expressed interest in Hillenbrand a few weeks ago, but then Kotchman suffered a concussion, Garret Anderson aggravated his hip injury, and trade talks were tabled.

A few other teams have expressed interest, but Hillenbrand’s high salary ($6.5 million) and low production (.254 average, three home runs, five doubles, 22 runs batted in) make him a difficult player to move.

Bill Stoneman, Angels general manager, “said if the right circumstances present themselves, where both parties would benefit, he would move Shea,” said Dan Lozano, Hillenbrand’s agent. “We’re hoping something happens before the [July 31] trade deadline.”

In the meantime, Hillenbrand, who hit .287 and averaged 18 home runs and 82 RBIs over his previous five seasons, tries to make the best of a bad situation.

“We’re winning, we’re in first place, it could be a lot worse,” Hillenbrand said. “But I know I can help this team win down the stretch, and you can’t do that if you’re not given the opportunity. I’m trying to stay positive, support my teammates. When you’re winning, the last thing you want to be is a distraction.”

Scioscia said Hillenbrand “has been ultra-professional about the situation. We know how much he wants to contribute, but right now we have guys who are doing things you can’t ignore, who have been a big part of our resurgence, who you can’t take out of the lineup. There is some chemistry there that is very real.”

Hillenbrand created waves in July -- after a dispute with Toronto Manager John Gibbons over playing time, the two nearly came to blows, and Hillenbrand was traded -- but no matter how much he stews inside, he has been outwardly calm.

“I understand the situation,” said Hillenbrand, whose average hovered around .230 for the first two months of the season. “Those guys deserve to play. They’re winning, they’re producing, they’re clicking, and you don’t want to mess with that chemistry.... I’m just not at a point in my career where I’m ready to sit on the bench.”

*

Jered Weaver, who did not make his last start because of a bruised shoulder, said he will pitch today against the Kansas City Royals regardless of the results of his strep throat culture, which are due today.

“I definitely feel better than I did Monday,” said Weaver, who was examined Tuesday by team physician Craig Milhouse and received an injection of antibiotics. “I couldn’t swallow anything Monday. Today, I feel a lot more energy.”

*

Reliever Justin Speier, out since May 1 because of an intestinal infection, resumed his rehabilitation assignment Tuesday, throwing two innings, giving up one hit and striking out three, in a rookie-league game in Arizona. The right-hander, who had to abort his previous rehab assignment in early June, is expected back some time after the All-Star break.... Fifth-round pick Andrew Romine, an Arizona State shortstop, signed with the Angels for $125,000 and will report to the advanced rookie-league team at Orem, Utah.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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