Catcher Jeff Mathis returns to Angels' lineup against Cubs
"It's like the first game of the year," the Angels catcher said before Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Mathis hasn't played since he broke a bone in his right wrist while blocking a ball in the dirt April 19, but after a rehabilitation stint with triple-A Salt Lake, Mathis was back in the lineup Friday against the Cubs.
"I'm excited to be back," said Mathis, who was batting .324 when he was injured. "It's been a long 8 1/2 weeks."
Mathis' return will push catcher Mike Napoli into more of an everyday role at first base in place of injured Kendry Morales.
"Nap is going to get a lot of looks at first base," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll mix in some other guys, but this gives us a chance to keep his bat in the lineup."
Napoli has hit 20 home runs in each of the last two seasons while sharing catching duties with Mathis, but Scioscia thinks he has the potential to hit 30 homers with 600 plate appearances. Napoli entered Friday's game with a .257 average, 11 homers and 27 runs batted in.
"He's strong, and I hope with experience his streaks won't be as extreme," Scioscia said. "But there's no doubt he has the potential to hit 30 home runs."
The top of the Angels' lineup has a new look Friday. Howie Kendrick will lead off in place of injured Erick Aybar, and Kevin Frandsen will bat second and play third base.
-- Mike DiGiovanna in Chicago
Photo: Angels catcher Jeff Mathis checks on other runners after Oakland's Travis Buck is out at home on a force play during a game in April. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.