06/09/2003 10:42 PM ET
Notes: Erstad returns to Angels
Centerfielder back after missing 42 games
ANAHEIM -- Darin Erstad sat at his locker, pounding a ball into the webbing of his glove over and over.
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
He stood up with a smile on his face that could only have meant one thing: He was back and he was playing.
Erstad returned to his usual No. 2 spot in the lineup and his usual spot in center field for the Angels on Monday night against the Philadelphia Phillies six weeks after suffering a painful case of tendinitis in his right hamstring that forced him to miss 42 games.
Erstad was batting .333 with 18 runs scored in 18 games at the time and comes back to a team that has gone 22-20 in his absence.
He is coming off a week-long rehab stint with Triple-A Salt Lake in which he batted .407, compiling 11 hits in 27 at-bats, scoring six runs, driving in four and stealing a base.
On Monday, he didn't want to get too specific about how his leg feels.
"I'm ready to play," Erstad said. "I got on it pretty good for a week and it's held up pretty good."
The Angels have held up pretty well in his absence, going 22-20 in the 42 games he's missed. One of the reasons that Anaheim has been able to tread water has been the play of Jeff DaVanon, who has emerged as Erstad's main fill-in.
DaVanon was a finalist for the American League Player of the Week award that was given to Garret Anderson for the week ending June 8, and it wasn't hard to figure out why.
DaVanon (.346, four homers, seven RBIs, MLB-best 10 runs scored) became only the fourth player ever and the first since 1969 to have three straight multi-homer games.
DaVanon also became the third player ever to homer from both sides of the plate in consecutive games. He is batting .362 overall with eight homers and 20 RBIs in 40 games.
"The first game he did it [hit two homers], I was like, 'I can't do that,'" Erstad said. "The second day, I said, 'I can't do that, either.' The third day, I said, I know I can't do that.' ... It's great for Jeff to get the chance to play every day. I've always respected his talent and I couldn't be happier for him."
But Erstad seems a little bit happier about where he's at these days.
First of all, he said that the fact that he's experienced injuries before made it a little easier to accept this time around.
"It's been a challenge, but what do you do?" he said. "You accept it as part of things and do what you can to get back to playing."
Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said Erstad's swing looks as good as it's looked in years, but Erstad wasn't ready to go that far.
"I know the pitching's different, but I felt pretty comfortable in the box [in Triple-A], and I'm all about feeling comfortable [at the plate]," Erstad said.
"But there's really no replacing Major League pitching, so we'll see what happens."
And as the Angels know, there's really no replacing Erstad.
"Ersty's presence is important," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
"He brings a lot more than statistics every day and is the type of player that makes people around him better."
Eckstein update: Shortstop David Eckstein missed his fourth straight game because of a deep bone bruise in his left hand suffered last Friday in a fielding mishap during batting practice.
It seems unlikely that he will play in the Philadelphia series but Scioscia said it was looking "definite" that he'd return during the weekend three-game set against the New York Mets.
Eckstein took a fungo off the bat of Scioscia and threw it to first before Friday night's series opener against the Florida Marlins in Miami. At the precise time that Eckstein released the ball, a Garret Anderson line drive came right at Eckstein's head, causing him to throw up his hands.
The ball caught the meaty part of Eckstein's left hand under the thumb, causing it to turn black and blue immediately, but after the game he said the swelling had become minimal.
His MRI on Saturday and what Scioscia referred to as "more tests" Monday revealed no fractures or tears and Eckstein said the hand felt a lot better, which enabled him to take infield practice. Scioscia said he could be used as a pinch-runner in Monday's game if necessary.
In the meantime, he's being treated with ice, heat and a little massage therapy and all indications are that he's day-to-day.
"It's just the ability to deal with the pain," Eckstein said. "I'll play once I'm able to hit."
All-Star Glaus? In balloting updates posted Tuesday, Troy Glaus still leads the American League All-Star voting for third basemen with 230,167 votes. Eric Chavez of the Oakland A's is second with 197,295 and Robin Ventura of the New York Yankees is third with 84,679.
Glaus, a career .253 hitter going into this year, is enjoying an unusually high batting average. Going into Monday's game, Glaus was hitting .302 with 14 home runs, 43 RBIs and a team-leading 41 runs scored.
When asked what Glaus is doing differently in his approach at the plate after batting .250 in each of the last two seasons, Scioscia said the main thing is that he's maturing.
"With Troy, average is the one thing we're not concerned with one way or the other," Scioscia said. "Driving in runs and scoring runs are the most important things for him and he's extremely productive and on pace or ahead of pace of what we've seen from him in those categories. But he's using his experience as well as anybody and has become a tougher out."
Glaus started at designated hitter for the first time this year on Monday because of "a little bit of soreness" in his throwing arm, according to Scioscia.
"We'll let him recharge a bit," Scioscia said.
Halo handbook: Tim Salmon's bruised left ankle seems to have healed. Salmon started in right field Monday night. ... Chone Figgins, the speedy infielder who has had two stints with the Angels but was optioned to Salt Lake last week, joined his team and immediately made an impact, hitting two doubles, a triple and a home run in his first game back. Figgins is hitting .331 there.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.