Notes: Figgins, Haynes fast friends

Notes: Figgins, Haynes fast friends

ANAHEIM -- It could have been an episode of "Touched By An Angel," the way Chone Figgins suddenly, magically took flight as May merged into June.

From a low of .094 on May 9, the third baseman had lifted his batting average to .306 going into Tuesday night's assignment against Royals ace Gil Meche. Figgins has been a .456 hitter since the final day of May, having hit safely in 22 of the past 23 games. His Majors-best 13 steals in June brought him to within five of Gary Pettis' club record 186 thefts.

The Angel who touched Figgins, lifting his spirits, was best buddy Nathan Haynes, whose own remarkable season continued when he joined Figgins in the Angels' lineup at Angel Stadium. Gary Matthews Jr. was given another night off to heal his left hamstring, which tightened on Saturday night.

After tearing up the Pacific Coast League, hitting .386 in 44 games, Haynes was summoned to Anaheim on May 28. He brought a .333 average in limited duty (15 at-bats) into his second Major League start, having used his blazing speed to score five runs.

"I feel a little more comfortable now," Haynes said. "I still have a little of that feeling when you face certain pitchers that you're seeing a name instead of the pitcher. I asked Chone at what point you get over that, and he told me it takes a while."

They've been close since the summer of 2001, when Colorado accepted outfielder Kimera Bartee in exchange for Figgins, who was dispatched to Double-A Arkansas. Haynes and Figgins hit it off as teammates and have been close to inseparable ever since, Haynes traveling to Florida from Northern California for winter workouts with Figgins.

"We know each other's games so well, it can only help being around each other." said Figgins, who was hitting .133 when Haynes joined the club. "When Nate got here, he stressed that I needed to stay with my approach, that when you're struggling, that's when you really need to simplify things. He said it was only a matter of time before the hits started falling -- and he was right."

Figgins and Haynes routinely point toward each other in the dugout after getting a hit, a way of acknowledging the bond, the friendship.

"It's easy to lose sight of basic things when you struggle," said Haynes, who credits Salt Lake coach Jim Eppard with putting him in the frame of mind to succeed. "You need to take the same approach every day. Some days it's not going to work, but the key is to stick with it; you can't change. Just know your luck is going to change if you keep hitting the ball hard. That's what happened with Chone."

A first-round choice by Oakland in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, Haynes spent 10 years in the Minor Leagues, fighting through eight surgeries with three organizations, before finally blossoming this season, at 27.

Rotation intact: With off-days on Thursday and Monday before the All-Star break beginning July 9, the Angels will keep their five starters in place, providing additional rest for the quintet.

John Lackey said he "felt great" going eight innings against the Royals on Monday night, alleviating any concerns over tendinitis in his right shoulder, even though he slipped to 10-5 with the loss.

Bartolo Colon also came out of his start on Sunday in fine shape, manager Mike Scioscia said, and is set to go on Saturday in Baltimore. Lackey works Sunday against the Orioles.

Jered Weaver's slightly jammed right shoulder passed his bullpen-session test, and he's set to go on Wednesday. Ervin Santana pitched Tuesday night, and Kelvim Escobar kicks off a nine-game road trip in Baltimore on Friday night.

Return of Percy: Troy Percival, who announced his retirement on Opening Day while throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the Angels at Angel Stadium, is back in the big time.

The Cardinals purchased his contract from Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday. Percival threw the final pitch of the 2002 World Series for the champion Angels and is the club's all-time saves king.

"Talking to Percy," Scioscia said, "I don't know if you want to call it unfinished business -- he accomplished so much. You just have to understand how much he loves to pitch, to compete. He's giving himself the opportunity."

Percival allowed one run in six appearances for Memphis -- and it came during a season debut in which he walked three in two-thirds of an inning. Since then, he has nine strikeouts in six scoreless innings.

Short hops: Reliever Justin Speier (viral infection) pitched two scoreless innings for the Rookie Level Arizona Angels on Tuesday against the Rangers, striking out three while yielding one hit. "We'll see how he comes out of it," Scioscia said. "The next step probably will be [Class A] Rancho [Cucamonga]." ... Outfielder Greg Porter celebrated his promotion to Salt Lake with a homer and double, driving in three runs, in a 16-11 win over Sacramento on Monday. Nick Gorneault, Jeff Mathis, Brandon Wood (club-high 13) and Mike Eylward also homered for the Bees. ... Robert Mosebach went 7 2/3 innings (six strikeouts, no walks) for the win as Rancho Cucamonga bashed Modesto, 9-2. Mosebach is 7-5 with a 4.17 ERA.

Up next: Weaver (6-3, 3.80 ERA) faces southpaw Jorge De La Rosa (4-9, 5.75) in Wednesday's series finale at 12:35 p.m. PT.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.