Notes: Away game feels like home
Dodger Stadium sparks memories for many Halos
LOS ANGELES -- Father's Day weekend couldn't find Gary Matthews Jr. in a more appropriate place than Dodger Stadium. This is where so many of his baseball memories with his dad originate, Gary "Sarge" Matthews smashing baseballs and robbing Dodgers of hits in the Chavez Ravine outfield."I used to stand right here as a little kid and watch my dad get ready for games," Matthews said in the visitor's clubhouse before the first of three games with the Dodgers on Friday night. "His locker was right here, where mine is now. Living in the [San Fernando] Valley as a kid, I was here a lot. This ballpark was always something special." He grew up wanting to be like the man for whom he was named, a big man who carried himself with pride and dignity and a hard-hitting outfielder for five Major League clubs. Sarge Jr., as his dad's good friend, Dusty Baker, calls him, is fulfilling that destiny in his debut season with the Angels. "When I got here, I said I wanted to do whatever I could to help this team win," Matthews said. "I said I want to do that by being versatile, being able to do different things. And that's sort of what I've done." No "sort of" about it. Matthews has played Gold Glove-caliber center field while scoring runs (41) and driving them home (40) from the leadoff and cleanup spots. "Everyone wants to go out and hit .300, but I have a different role now on this team," Matthews said, hitting .282 coming off a 2006 All-Star season that included a .313 average. "It wasn't necessarily about the numbers last season, but the position I had in the order [leading off] gave me the opportunity to be a little bit more selfish at times in terms of getting hits. You can have a little bit more freedom in that spot. "Batting cleanup, you've got to do everything you can to get the runner in. Sometimes that's a sacrifice fly, sometimes it's a ground ball to the right side. "Definitely," said the well-traveled Matthews, with his seventh team at age 32, "it's more fulfilling playing on a team with a chance to win. I've never played on a team this good. This is my eighth year, and I've never had an opportunity to win at this level. I've never had a chance to play in the postseason. "It's really fulfilling to be holding up my end of the deal thus far." That deal, for five years and $50 million, was criticized nationally, but those voices of dissent have evaporated. Matthews has been an indispensable part of the best team in baseball over the past five weeks with its 25-9 record since May 9.
Weaver in tune: A couple of trips to chiropractors in Anaheim and in Cincinnati have Jered Weaver feeling good for his start against the Dodgers on Saturday. Weaver aggravated a lower back ailment in St. Louis in his previous outing, lasting only three innings even though he felt he could have gone longer.What Weaver learned was that hamstring tightness was causing the lower back to lock up, meaning he needs to be more conscientious with his stretching to keep the hamstring stretched out. Weaver, who went 6 2/3 innings to beat the Dodgers in Anaheim on May 19, grew up a Dodgers fan in Simi Valley, Calif., getting his first autograph from Ron Cey. Emulating Mike Scioscia, the man who would become his manager, Jered was a catcher then -- as hard to imagine as that might be in view of his slender 6-foot-7 frame. Home sweet home: Garret Anderson and Shea Hillenbrand also grew up in the L.A. area, Anderson in a variety of locales, Hillenbrand in Arcadia. Playing in Dodger Stadium carries special meaning to them, as well as to Matthews and Weaver. "This is my home park," Anderson said, brightly. "I like playing here. There's a lot of history in this ballpark. First time I came to a game here was 1984, I think. The Cardinals came in with all that speed, and it was a 1-0 game. I sat in that top deck behind home plate." Hillenbrand, unable to take his DH swings in National League parks, enjoyed the atmosphere nonetheless. He homered twice for Boston in 2003 in the first game he played in Dodger Stadium, a park he frequented often as a huge fan of Steve Sax, Scioscia and that group. "Oh, yeah, a lot of great memories here," Hillenbrand said, grinning. "We used to sit way up in the top section, the blue seats." Izturis questionable: Maicer Izturis was in uniform and with the club on Friday night, but Scioscia said it's "longer than day-to-day" for the versatile infielder's return to the club. Izturis, sidelined by a tight right hamstring, felt "a tug in his back" during a rehab assignment at Triple-A Salt Lake and had an MRI exam, but Scioscia didn't have the diagnosis.
"I just want to get back and play," Izturis said.Up next: Weaver (5-3, 4.14 ERA) faces right-hander Jason Schmidt (1-3, 6.43) on Saturday at 12:55 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.