Vladimir Guerrero was back in his customary cleanup spot Tuesday night despite the fact that he hadn’t played in almost a month and that the offense, especially the middle of the order, had been doing just fine without him.
Some Angels fans are concerned that Guerrero’s free-swinging approach and penchant for hitting into double plays might drag down an offense that began Tuesday ranked first in the major leagues in batting (.290), runs (590) and hits (1,040).
But Manager Mike Scioscia reserved the right to drop Guerrero -- who was sidelined by a pair of leg injuries and did not go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment -- from the cleanup spot if he struggles in his return. Guerrero had a single and a walk in three at-bats during Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.
“This is a starting spot -- he feels comfortable there -- and we can always adjust down the road if we have to,” Scioscia said. “He feels good. If he can pick up where he left off a couple weeks ago, he’ll be extremely productive.”
The middle of the order -- Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales -- has been extremely productive, but Scioscia says he doesn’t think Guerrero, who began Tuesday with a .290 average, four home runs and 21 runs batted in, will disrupt the offensive chemistry.
“This is not going to affect anyone who’s swinging the bat well,” Scioscia said. “We’re not taking any of those bats out of the lineup. This will enhance what we’re doing. But if there’s something that will make the lineup more productive, we’ll move forward with it.”
To make room for Guerrero on the roster, the Angels optioned reserve catcher Bobby Wilson to triple-A Salt Lake. After the game, the Angels sent utility man Sean Rodriguez to Salt Lake and recalled pitcher Sean O’Sullivan, who will start tonight.
Going home again?
It may not make up for missing the July 14 All-Star game because of an injury, but Torii Hunter will play in front of family and friends who were denied the chance to see him in St. Louis if he can successfully lobby General Manager Tony Reagins to do his minor league rehab assignment at double-A Arkansas.
The Travelers, who play in Little Rock, about 45 minutes north of Hunter’s hometown of Pine Bluff, open a four-game series at home Friday. The center fielder hopes to play three or four games at Arkansas beginning Friday, before being activated next week.
“I’m fighting for Arkansas,” said Hunter, a 1993 Pine Bluff High graduate who has never played a minor league game in his home state. “I could play in front of my home-state fans, have a good time and work on some things. The last time I played there was 1993. It would definitely be cool.”
Hunter, on the disabled list since July 10 because of a right adductor strain, will go “full bore” with his workout today, after which a decision on his rehab assignment will probably be made.
Reagins said he had not decided where to send Hunter, but Scioscia said it would “most likely” be to Arkansas.
Right fielder Bobby Abreu, who hit .380 with 28 RBIs in 26 games in July, was named American League player of the month.
Abreu is the first Angels player to reach those figures in average and RBIs in one calendar month in 12 years.
The last was Tim Salmon, who hit .390 with 32 RBIs in 27 games in July of 1997.
The only other major leaguer to reach those figures in one month this season is Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer, who batted .414 with 32 RBIs in 28 games in May.