Care to guess how many innings Hideki Matsui played in the field last year?
If you answered "zero" you win the kewpie doll.
Nevertheless, he's got a new team and the Angels haven't give up on him. Sure, he's going to be the club's primary DH. But according to the manager, he's not locked in:
- Hideki Matsui is making better-than-expected progress in early spring-training fielding drills but it's still unclear how much the Angels' new designated hitter might play in the outfield this season, Manager Mike Scioscia said Tuesday.
"He's not in all of the outfield drills, he's been kind of weaned in, but he's doing much more than we had anticipated," Scioscia said of Matsui, the former New York Yankees slugger and last year's World Series most valuable player who signed a one-year, $6-million deal with the Angels.
"We knew that he might be taking it slow in the spring, but from day one he was able to get into drills, start to step them up," Scioscia added. "But he still has a ways to go."
Matsui, 35, has two arthritic knees that prevented him from playing in the outfield last year. But he and the Angels hope he can see some defensive action this season, if only to occasionally relieve the starting outfielders — Juan Rivera, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu — should they need some rest.
"We are hopeful that he's going to be able to go out there a couple of days a week and be an option to play the outfield if somebody needs to get off their feet for a day," Scioscia said.
As The Ghost of Moonlight Graham points out, playing Matsui in left field will cost the Angels some runs; he was a pretty lousy outfielder before his knees met Old Man Arthritis.
Two things about this, though:
First, Matsui hasn't played a single inning in the outfield yet, and apparently won't for some time. If he does at all. It's probably too early to panic.
And second, even if Matsui does occasionally start in left field, it'll cost the Angels runs only if he gives away more in the field than he gets at the plate. Sure, if the benefit is just giving the regular outfielder an occasional day off, it's probably not worth the trade-off. But what if one of those guys gets hurt, and can hit but can't field (well)? Dear Angels fans: Do you really want Reggie Willits or Chris Pettit in the lineup in a non-emergency situation?
As long as there's no serious risk, the Angels should at least see if Godzilla can play in the outfield without demolishing a bunch of miniature buildings.