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Matthews benched; Willits starts in left

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Times Staff Writer

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia shuffled his lineup before Saturday’s extra-inning win over Toronto, leaving Gary Matthews Jr. and his .220 average on the bench, giving Reggie Willits his fifth start of the season in the outfield and batting Howie Kendrick second for the first time this season.

“We have to start now to try to find some continuity,” said Scioscia, whose team was second to last in the majors in hitting and scoring in May. “We need some guys to get into their game and right now there’s some guys that are struggling with that. Just a little tweak in the lineup sometimes, the groupings change a little bit, and maybe it can spark some stuff.”

It had some effect Saturday, with the Angels recording a season-high 16 hits -- the first time in two weeks they reached double digits -- while Willits, who started in left field, scored a run and Kendrick knocked one in. But they were three for 12 with runners in scoring position, leaving 14 men on base.

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“We’ve been patient trying to get things to go,” Scioscia said. “We have some groupings we know at some point will be very productive. But it hasn’t happened yet so we’re going to just realign some things and move forward from there.”

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After landing on the disabled list for the second time in less than a month, infielder Chone Figgins has apparently discovered there is some virtue in patience after all.

“I would love to be in there. But I can’t,” said Figgins, who was placed on the DL Friday to clear roster space for Kendrick’s return from injury. “I have to worry about getting healthy before I can come back and help the team.”

Figgins went on the disabled list because of a right hamstring strain on May 11 -- retroactive to May 4 -- came back to play one game May 21, then was disabled again because of an irritated tendon in his right leg. The struggling Angels miss him; they’re 20-13 in games he has started and average 1.3 more runs a game with him in the lineup.

Figgins, who is eligible to be reactivated June 6, doesn’t expect to begin running until Monday in Seattle. And when he’s ready to play, he’ll be sent out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment first, something he originally resisted.

“I wouldn’t like to, but it’s best to test it this time,” said Figgins, who is batting .306 and leads the team with 11 stolen bases despite having missed 23 games due to injury. “It’s getting better like it did last time. Which is a great thing. Because last time it healed quick.”

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With Figgins out the Angels’ options at third are limited. So versatile rookie Sean Rodriguez has begun taking ground balls there to give the team a little more depth.

“It won’t be a stretch for Sean,” Scioscia said of Rodriguez, who played 24 games at third in the low minors. “But it’s an important progression for any young player to make yourself as versatile as you can. You never know when opportunity is going to be there or when you’re going to get a chance.”

Scioscia said he expects to continue using Robb Quinlan and Brandon Wood at third for now, with Rodriguez backing up Kendrick at second. But with Quinlan having come out for a pinch-runner in the ninth and Wood for a pinch-hitter in the 10th, Rodriguez would have played somewhere on the left side of the infield if Saturday’s game had gone to the 11th inning.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com


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