Closer says he’s open to staying

Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Francisco Rodriguez moved Friday to quash growing speculation that, because the closer is seeking a five-year deal in the $15-million-a-year range, he was eagerly looking to leave the Angels as a free agent this winter.

“I want to clarify something,” Rodriguez said before Friday night’s game against the White Sox. “Just because I want to explore the market, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here.

“As a player, I worked hard for six years, and I earned that right to go out there and see what there is. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here. I want to see what’s out there, and it would be stupid on my part if I didn’t.”


There should be plenty out there. Big-market teams such as the Dodgers, Mets, Cubs and Tigers could be looking for closers this winter, and with Rodriguez on the verge of breaking Bobby Thigpen’s single-season record of 57 saves, the 26-year-old right-hander will be in line for a huge contract.

But he also said he’d consider a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year, which is more in line with what the Angels are thinking.

“The door is open,” said Rodriguez, the youngest pitcher in major league history to reach 200 saves. “A lot of possibilities are there.”

Rodriguez turned down the Angels’ last offer of three years and $34 million last winter. “That was more the years,” he said. “It’s not all about the money, breaking the bank. It’s about feeling comfortable and getting the respect. I didn’t think that offer was good enough.

“If I took three years, it would have basically been this year and two more years. Why settle for that when after this year I’ll have the opportunity to sign for four or five years?”

On second thought

Chone Figgins, who has shown considerable defensive improvement at third base, started at second base Friday night, his first game there since May 3 and his sixth of the season at that position.


Manager Mike Scioscia said the move was not permanent and not an indication that second baseman Howie Kendrick’s strained left hamstring is not healing properly.

“We need to create more depth at second,” Scioscia said. “Even when Howie comes back, Chone may play some there.”

Figgins hadn’t taken grounders at second since he last played there in May, but the former utility player wasn’t fazed by the switch.

“I guess [Scioscia] knows I’m prepared and mentally strong enough for whatever he throws at me,” Figgins said. “But moving to second base won’t help my Gold Glove chances at third, will it?”

On the mend

Kendrick and shortstop Erick Aybar, who is also sidelined by a strained left hamstring, hit in the batting cages Friday for the first time since suffering their injuries. Both are scheduled to begin running and agility drills Monday in Anaheim.

“I feel really good,” said Kendrick, who missed six weeks in April and May because of a left hamstring strain. “It’s not to the extent of my last injury. I’m being more cautious, because if I rip it, I’m done. But right now, I feel great.”


Distinguished company

Ervin Santana struck out eight Thursday against Detroit, his seventh consecutive start with at least seven strikeouts, the longest single-season streak of its kind by an Angels pitcher since 1978, when Nolan Ryan whiffed at least seven in seven straight starts.