Scioscia expects Matsui to ‘be very productive’
Coming out of the All-Star break, Manager Mike Scioscia said he expected Hideki Matsui to “be very productive in the second half” and to end up with “numbers that are comparable to what he did in New York last season.”
So far, the numbers don’t add up.
Matsui hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s 10-2 win over the Yankees, but he’s batting .249 with 11 homers, 49 runs batted in, 26 runs and 70 strikeouts in 96 games, putting him on pace for 18 homers, 82 RBIs, a career-low 43 runs and a career-high 118 strikeouts.
The 36-year-old Matsui’s previous low for average was .274 in 2009, a season in which he had 28 homers and 90 RBIs and won World Series most valuable player honors.
Matsui opened the season as the Angels’ cleanup hitter and was dropped to fifth in early May, but he has not been driving the ball like a middle-of-the-order hitter.
He’s hitting .291 with runners in scoring position, but his homer Tuesday was only his second since June 7, and he has one double since June 22.
A career .294 hitter against left-handers entering 2010, Matsui has struggled so much against lefties (.183 this season) that Scioscia has benched him against several lefties in recent weeks.
The Angels hope Matsui’s liner into the right-field seats off Chan-Ho Park on Tuesday night is a flash point for the designated hitter.
“I don’t have a Ouija board out right now,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully it’s a good sign that he will contribute the way he can in the second half.”
If the Angels are to acquire an impact bat — or even another arm — before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the price of such a commodity will have to come down, at least in the eyes of General Manager Tony Reagins.
The Angels expressed interest in Washington first baseman Adam Dunn, who is batting .286 with 22 homers and 59 RBIs, but they don’t appear willing to part with the high-end prospects required to acquire the slugger.
Among the players who might be available at a lesser price are Arizona first baseman Adam LaRoche (.256, 13 homers, 58 RBIs), Baltimore corner infielder Ty Wigginton (.248, 14 homers, 45 RBIs), Houston first baseman Lance Berkman (.250, 12 homers, 43 RBIs) and Florida infielder Jorge Cantu (.261, 10 homers, 53 RBIs).
The Angels, according to one report, pursued a deal for Kansas City third baseman Alberto Callaspo, a former Angels prospect who is hitting .276 with eight homers and 42 RBIs, but were turned down by the Royals.
“There are opportunities out there, but it’s a matter of what you have to give up in order to get a piece you like,” Reagins said. “If you find a fit that makes sense for both parties, you get a deal done. Sometimes, you don’t find that fit.”
Triple-A catcher Hank Conger, the Angels’ first-round pick in 2005, suffered a right rotator-cuff strain on a swing Monday night and was placed on the seven-day disabled list Tuesday.
Though the injury is not considered serious, it is a concern because Conger, one of the organization’s top prospects, was relegated to designated hitter because of shoulder problems for much of his first four minor league seasons.
Conger has done the bulk of the catching this season at Salt Lake and is batting .265 with five homers and 27 RBIs in 74 games.
“He’ll get the appropriate testing done, and we’ll go from there,” Reagins said.
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