Angels revisit a dark year, uniformly speaking

It was turn-back-the-clock day in Safeco Field, where the Angels and Mariners wore uniforms from 1995 on Saturday, the visitors donning dark blue caps with the interlocking CA logo of the California Angels.

How fitting. That was a dark year in the history of the Angels, who led the American League West by 11 games on Aug. 3 before a pair of nine-game losing streaks led to one of baseball's biggest collapses.

The Mariners, 13 games out in early August, surged in August and September and caught the Angels, forcing a one-game playoff for the division title in the old Kingdome, a game the Mariners, behind ace Randy Johnson, won, 9-1.

There was heavy speculation at the time that the Mariners, who had never been to the playoffs and were in an aging, outdated, dungeon-like domed facility, were going to move to Tampa Bay.

But they rode the momentum of that comeback and run to the AL Championship Series to a new stadium deal and have remained in the Pacific Northwest ever since.

The only uniformed personnel remaining from that 1995 Angels club is pitching coach Mike Butcher, a reliever who went 6-1 with a 4.73 earned-run average that season.

"I wasn't involved in that, and most of the guys here weren't, so it's not like we're putting on these uniforms with negative thoughts," bench coach Ron Roenicke, who filled in for Manager Mike Scioscia, said before the game. "It's a nice-looking uniform, though."

There was one glitch for Angels equipment man Brian "Bubba" Harkins, who unpacked several boxes of batting helmets but found no size 8 to fit the large head of designated hitter Hideki Matsui. The largest helmet was a 7 5/8.

The solution? Harkins borrowed a dark-blue size 8 helmet from the Mariners, removed the Seattle logo and replaced it with a CA.

On the hot seat

Scioscia returned to Southern California Saturday morning to attend his daughter's high school graduation. He will also miss Sunday's game.

The first question to Roenicke in his pregame meeting with reporters: "So, who is your closer today?"

Roenicke barely flinched.

"No comment," he said, before adding, "Same guy."

That would be much-maligned left-hander Brian Fuentes, who has somehow held on to the closer's job despite a 5.93 earned-run average and several shaky performances. The Angels, of course, did not need a closer in an 11-2 win.

Short hops

Jeff Mathis might be ready to return sooner than the Angels expected. In his first minor league rehabilitation game Friday, Mathis caught nine innings for triple-A Salt Lake, going one for four. The Angels thought Mathis, out since April 20 because of a broken bone in his right wrist, would need to play six or seven games over a 10-day period before being activated. … Third baseman Brandon Wood (right hip flexor strain) hit .125 (2 for 16) in his first four rehab games at Salt Lake.

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