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There's always a silver lining

Izturis caps off '07 with strong playoffs

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ANAHEIM -- Offensively, the Angels didn't have much to show for themselves after being shut down for three games in the American League Division Series against a formidable Red Sox pitching staff, but on Sunday, third basemen Maicer Izturis capped off a strong season with a three-hit game, including a double.

Izturis, who has been Angels manager Mike Scioscia's do-it-all infielder, was 4-for-12 with two doubles, two stolen bases and a run scored.

"I'm really proud of this team and proud of myself, because it's been a good season," Izturis said. "I've worked really hard, and I'm just grateful that Scioscia has had the confidence in me to play third or second [base]. It just feels good."

The switch-hitting utility infielder from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, has flown under the radar for the past two seasons, despite being one of the team's most consistent hitters and best fielders. Izturis hit .289 with six homers, 17 doubles and 51 RBIs in 102 games this season, and it was his bat that helped the Angels secure victories late in the season.

Izturis hit a team-best .406 with runners in scoring position, and it was his two-run homer on Sept. 23 that ignited the Angels' offense on the night they clinched the AL West. Izturis plays a lot bigger than what his 5-foot-6, 165-pound frame would lead you to believe.

Izturis belted homers in consecutive games against the Twins on Aug. 10-11, and it was his walk-off single on July 25 that pushed the Angels past the A's at a time when Los Angeles was reeling, having lost seven of its previous nine games.

"I've worked hard with [Angels hitting coach] Mickey Hatcher and that helped me a lot this season," Izturis said. "I've also talked a lot with veteran Garret Anderson, and that's helped me, too. I just try to stay focused, and thank God it's worked out OK for me."

Izturis, like his teammates in the Angels' clubhouse, was disappointed by the club's early exit in the playoffs, but he said that he wasn't going to dwell on the past. Izturis said he's already looking forward to playing in the Venezuelan Winter League in the offseason to stay sharp for next year.

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Izturis will be joined by teammates Francisco Rodriguez and Juan Rivera. And Rivera said it's going to be fun to play against his teammates in Venezuela, and he's happy to see that they're thinking about getting better for next season.

Izturis' strong performance in the playoffs, plus his solid regular season, has him champing at the bit to get back on the field for the Angels in 2008.

"We played great all year, but the playoffs can be short, especially if you don't execute against a team like the Red Sox," Izturis said. "But we have to look forward to next season and come back focused and recharged."

Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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