Breakthrough game for Hideki Matsui
Hideki Matsui’s next paycheck may be lighter than usual after the Angels’ slugger broke the windshield of team owner Arte Moreno’s new Mercedes CL 600 with a foul ball in Wednesday’s 8-6 win over the Kansas City Royals.
“You kidding me?” teammate Torii Hunter said while surveying the damage. “Oh, man, that’s coming out of his check. You can’t hit the owner’s car.”
Matsui made up for that later in the same at-bat, belting a three-run home run, his first as an Angel.
“His anger probably went down about 50%,” Matsui said through translator Roger Kahlon. “As long as I don’t get fired.”
Moreno laughed off the incident.
“That’s OK,” he said with a smile. “It’s not a problem.”
Putting things in order
Because of minor injuries to shortstop Erick Aybar and right fielder Bobby Abreu, Wednesday marked the first time the Angels had their projected opening day lineup on the field. And for Hunter, the timing was important.
“We have 12 more days to opening day,” he said “and it’s about that time for us to really bear down.”
Hunter has certainly taken those words to heart. With a pair of homers against the Royals — his first two of the spring — Hunter raised his average to a team-best .400 and capped a four-game tear that has seen him hit .727 with six runs scored and five driven in.
Hunter blamed his slow start on the controversy over remarks he made earlier this month in which he called dark-skinned players from the Dominican Republic “imposters” because they are perceived as some to be African American. Hunter said his comments were taken out of context.
“That story that came out, I let it get in my head a little bit,” Hunter said. “I was pretty upset about that. But I’m fine now. Everything’s cool. Mentally I’m there. Physically I’m there.”
Although Wednesday’s batting order marked a step forward health-wise, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia wasn’t ready to commit to it on an everyday basis, saying there were a couple of positions that figure to be shared.
“This is a lineup that you obviously will see at some point this season. And probably see it quite often,” he said. “This is a lineup we’re excited about. But to say it’s opening day’s [lineup], I don’t know if we’re there yet.”
Brandon Wood, who was expected to replace the departed Chone Figgins at third, has struggled some this spring and probably will share time with Maicer Izturis. Wood struck out twice Wednesday, dropping his average to .255, with more strikeouts (10) than extra-base hits (three).
And with Scioscia placing so much importance on a catcher’s defense, Mike Napoli figures to split time behind the plate with Jeff Mathis despite the fact Napoli hit his team-leading fifth home run against the Royals.