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Angels' Johnny Giavotella eyes return after being cleared to practice

Angels' Johnny Giavotella eyes return after being cleared to practice
Johnny Giavotella has been out of the Angels lineup since Aug. 21, when he began to have problems with his vision. (Pat Sullivan / Associated Press)

Johnny Giavotella, sidelined since Aug. 21 because of a condition that causes double vision, was cleared to begin batting practice on Tuesday, and the Angels second baseman said he's "confident" he will play again this season.

But will he have a spot to reclaim when his vision, which he said is "still a little hazy" when he looks to his left, fully returns?

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Giavotella is batting .265 with a number of clutch hits but will have been sidelined at least a month by the time he returns. If the Angels are in the playoff hunt, they won't have the luxury of easing Giavotella back into the lineup.

Taylor Featherston, who took over at second base on Sept. 1, is not as strong a hitter as Giavotella but is superior defensively with better range, athleticism and arm strength. And his .222 average (eight for 36) in 11 games is far better than his .130 average in the first 4 1/2 months.

"The one thing Johnny gave us that was important was a spark offensively, and if he can bring that, it would be welcome," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. First and foremost, Johnny has to show he's healthy."

Giavotella must hit live pitching and go through aggressive defensive drills before returning.

"I don't think it will be a quick transition from when I'm able to see 100% to getting into game situations," he said, "but that's up to Sosh."

Featherson, a Rule 5 pick last winter, seems more comfortable and confident since he started playing every day.

"I definitely feel like I belong," said Featherston, who played double-A ball last season. "I think I've taken great strides. … I'm not trying to prove myself on an at-bat by at-bat basis. I'm just knowing the situation and playing the game."

GM search

The New York Post reported that Angels owner Arte Moreno and President John Carpino were scheduled to meet with New York Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler in New York on Monday night, another indication that Eppler could be the favorite to replace Jerry Dipoto as the Angels' general manager.

Carpino confirmed via text message that he left for a GM recruiting trip Monday but would not say where he was going. Dipoto resigned amid renewed friction with Scioscia on July 1.

Eppler, 40, was a finalist for the position when the Angels hired Dipoto in October 2011.

The Angels have interviewed two in-house candidates, assistant GMs Matt Klentak and Scott Servais, and are believed to be interested in Texas Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine.

Short hops

Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (forearm strain) will throw a two-inning simulated game Tuesday, possibly his final step before returning Saturday at Minnesota. … Pitcher Hector Santiago was the Angels' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes players' community and philanthropic efforts.

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