Jeff Mathis’ catching skills trump offensive struggles for Angels

Angels fans pining for catcher Jeff Mathis to take a long seat on the pine might have to keep waiting.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Mathis’ ability to work with starting pitchers outweighs his offensive struggles.

“If you look at the job he’s done with [Jered] Weaver and [Dan] Haren, we’re winning games when they pitch not because of anything Jeff’s doing at the plate, but what he’s doing behind the plate,” Scioscia said Saturday.

On Sunday, Haren, who is scheduled to pitch Tuesday at the New York Yankees, cosigned that argument.

“Everyone knows he’s having his struggles at the plate this year, but what he’s done with the staff [and] me, personally, I feel like every time I go out there, I’m right in sync with him,” said Haren, who is 12-6 with a 2.81 earned-run average.

Mathis has caught more of Weaver’s and Haren’s starts than other pitchers, but there are some who think Scioscia could substitute Mathis, who is batting .181, for someone playing better offensively, such as Hank Conger.

Before Sunday, Conger was batting .299 (20 for 67) with 19 runs batted in and four home runs for triple-A Salt Lake in 18 games since being optioned there July 19.


Scioscia said if Mathis’ offensive struggles become so bad the Angels can’t absorb his lack of production, “Sure, we’ll look at some other options.” Right now, he said, it hasn’t reached that point and they’re still trying to work with him.

Napoli cites lack of ‘fun’

Former Angels catcher Mike Napoli is glad to be with Texas in part because he’s no longer playing under Scioscia, a former catcher, according to recent comments published in the Dallas Morning News.

“I always felt like I was looking over my shoulder to see if I was doing things right,” Napoli said of his time with the Angels. “I had ‘bad hands.’ I was so worried about my setup and the mechanics all the time. I learned a lot. I learned a lot of what I do there, but playing there just wasn’t much fun.”

Scioscia responded by saying, “He caught very well for us when he had the opportunity and he’s doing a great job in Texas.”

Scioscia added, “Nobody here ever, ever said he had ‘bad hands.’ ”

Scioscia concluded, “Mike was slowed by some physical issues that hampered some of his playing time at the major league level. He worked very, very hard to be a good catcher. He went through the same program that Bengie Molina, that Jose Molina, that Jeff Mathis, that Hank Conger, that Bobby Wilson, Matt Walbeck [did] — he went through the same program with the same attention to fundamentals and he did very well when he was healthy.”

Short hops

Scioscia said the Angels know who will start Wednesday’s game at Toronto in place of Weaver, who is serving a suspension, but they won’t announce it until probably Tuesday.