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Rivera provides long-term options

Times Staff Writer

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Juan Rivera has been labeled the odd man out in an Angels outfield that features Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews Jr. Chances are, Rivera will be the odd man in.

“We have a congested outfield, and there is a perception that we have to move him,” General Manager Tony Reagins said of Rivera before Tuesday’s 8-4 exhibition victory over the San Diego Padres.

“We’ve had conversations with other clubs, but I’m not looking to trade this guy. He’s going to be an important part of the team. He provides depth and versatility. And you have to look long term. The makeup of the team could be different in 2009 and 2010.”

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Rivera, who hit .310 with 23 home runs and 85 RBIs in 2006 before missing most of 2007 because of a broken leg, could replace Garret Anderson’s production -- for a much cheaper price -- if the Angels don’t pick up Anderson’s $14-million option for 2009.

Another significant roadblock to a trade of Rivera, who is batting .412 this spring: The Angels probably wouldn’t get equal value. Though the Braves, Mets, Giants and, possibly, the Padres, are looking for an outfielder, they probably wouldn’t trade a starting pitcher, frontline reliever or top prospect for Rivera.

“I know he’s a talent, but it almost has to be a situation where a contender is in dire need, because of injury, for a proven player,” San Diego GM Kevin Towers said. “More clubs nowadays, even the big-market clubs like the Red Sox and Yankees, are giving their young kids opportunities.”

Opening act?

Jered Weaver improved to 3-0 this spring with a four-inning, one-run, one-hit, 49-pitch effort against the Padres on Tuesday and was so efficient he failed to reach his target of 55 to 60 pitches.

Weaver also remained in line to start the March 31 season opener if John Lackey, slowed by a sore elbow, is not ready.

“We have a number of options, a number of guys we can slot in there,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Weaver is certainly one of them. There’s four others. You’ve narrowed it down to five.”

The Angels roughed up San Diego ace Jake Peavy for four runs in the first, with Erick Aybar (triple), Kendry Morales (single), Jeff Mathis (double) and Nathan Haynes (single) knocking in runs. Outfield prospect Peter Bourjos hit a three-run homer in the ninth.

Jason Bulger and Rich Thompson, both in the hunt for a bullpen spot, pitched well, Bulger retiring the side in order in the fifth and Thompson giving up one hit in two scoreless innings. But Kasey Olenberger gave up a three-run homer to Colt Morton in the eighth.

Men at work

It’s a familiar refrain in the first half of spring: a veteran pitcher gives up a bunch of runs and shrugs it off, saying he was “just getting my work in.” Sometimes, Scioscia said, it’s actually true. A pitcher may throw all fastballs if he is “having trouble with fastball command and is trying to nail it that day,” said Scioscia, the former Dodgers catcher.

“Orel Hershiser would have a few games where he’d give up six or seven runs in two or three innings and feel good about his progress. You don’t feel good about the results, but you have to look at the bright side -- you get to practice cutoffs and relays.”

A stitch in time

What seemed to be a routine slide home Monday resulted in a gash in Casey Kotchman’s right shin that required seven stitches and limited the first baseman to throwing and batting practice Tuesday.

“Somehow my leg got cut open on his spike,” Kotchman said of Oakland catcher Rob Bowen. “If this was the regular season, I’d play, but at this point in spring training, I’ll take it easy.”

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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