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Angels catcher Jeff Mathis hits a new low but will retain share of catching job

May 11, 2011 |  6:56 pm

Mathis3 It’s bad enough that Jeff Mathis is hitting .186 with one home run and five runs batted in this season, but the Angels catcher hit another low Tuesday night.

Two times, with a runner on second base, the White Sox walked rookie Mark Trumbo intentionally to pitch to Mathis, who responded by popping out to second in the third inning and striking out in the fifth.

“Any manager would do that with a guy swinging the bat the way Mark is and my numbers what they are,” Mathis said. “You play the percentages and take your chances.

“What’s most frustrating is you want to come through in those situations. It makes you try harder. But you have to step back and stay relaxed in those situations. You can’t try to do too much.”

Mathis, a career .199 hitter entering the season, knew he would have to hit better to hold the starting job, but he has lost significant playing time to rookie catcher Hank Conger, who was hitting .297 with three homers and 11 RBIs entering Wednesday.

Mathis and Conger have each started 18 games. Mathis’ solid overall defensive play and game-calling experience has kept him in the lineup.

Conger, who was slowed by shoulder injuries in the minor leagues, is improving rapidly on defense, but Manager Mike Scioscia said the two will continue to split the job.

“We’re going to move Hank along slowly — he is yet to catch a full professional season,” Scioscia said. “He’s performing well, but we want him to be paced to where he can keep improving as a catcher. “He’s not the finished product.

“We’re excited about his tools, but we want to make sure they’re molded into a player who’s going to stays up here for a long time. Some guys you have to break in slower. He’s playing as much as he should be, and at some point, we may expand that.”


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Photo: Jeff Mathis reacts after striking out against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. Credit: Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire