Matthews says ankle fine for opener
Injury that he suffered last week has come around in time
MINNEAPOLIS -- He hit rockets from the right side, deep into the Metrodome's left-field bleachers, and he hit bullets from the left side. He shagged fly balls with no problem, unleashing strong throws, and when the workout was over and his teammates were in the clubhouse, he ran the bases hard, without pain.
Gary Matthews Jr. smiled as he declared himself fit to serve as the Angels' designated hitter or designated outfielder in the season opener on Monday night against the Twins.
"I'm ready to go," he said. "The ankle is fine."
The right ankle was far from fine last Monday in Tempe when Matthews pulled up in agony on the basepaths -- and it was even worse the next morning when he barely could pull himself out of bed.
But the training staff did its work, and Mother Nature held up her end of the deal, clearling Matthews to haul his bat and speed into the No. 2 spot in the order between Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero when the Angels go for the gusto against Livan Hernandez behind their Opening Day starter, Jered Weaver.
"I was concerned when it happened," Matthews said of the baserunning misadventure against the Padres at Tempe Diablo Stadium, "but it responded very well to treatment. I feel good now. Overall, it's the best I've felt in a while."
The left shoulder that severely impaired his right-handed stroke in the second half has healed, and so has the left knee that forced him out of the American League Division Series with tendinitis.
"Gary was having a great spring when he hurt the ankle," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's an important part of our lineup. We're looking for big things from him between Fig and Vlad."
Matthews batted .313 leading off for the Rangers in 2006, and he was batting .279 for the Angels, hitting first and fourth primarily, in the first half of 2007 before a succession of injuries ran his body and his average down (to .252).
With 18 homers and 18 steals in 140 games last season, Matthews provided a blend of power and speed that should play well in the No. 2 spot, Guerrero poised in the on-deck circle and Figgins flying around the bases in front of him.
"It's all about winning at this point in my career," Matthews said. "I want to get that taste of postseason baseball -- and I want to play in a World Series. That's what drives me."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.