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Too many Angels in outfield for Rivera

Too many Angels in outfield for Rivera

ANAHEIM -- It's a nice problem to have, but it's tough when you're the one fighting to break through.

That would be depth, outfield in this case, and the Angels are heavy in that end of the roster. On a regular basis, manager Mike Scioscia takes four guys and squeezes them into three slots, with the remaining player taking the designated hitter assignment.

The usual suspects have been Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews Jr., Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, with Anderson getting the most starts at DH this season and Matthews handling the job in Sunday's Interleague series finale with the Dodgers.

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Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits have also logged some time at DH and been given a rare start in the outfield, but their time has mostly been relegated to the bench. Scioscia said it's merely a numbers game, as in number of players and potential production.

"Right now, there are four bats that are really forming a major part of our lineup," Scioscia said. "To crack those four bats, one of those guys would have to really struggle. We're hoping those four guys are going to get going."

Rivera missed most of the 2007 campaign rehabbing from a broken left leg, and he has a pair of hits in his last two at-bats, both pinch-hit singles. But his overall numbers, 7-for-36 with no homers and one RBI, aren't exactly making a case. Rivera said all he can do is keep working and hope to turn it around and get some more playing time.

"We have too many outfielders," Rivera said. "I just wait for my opportunity. I don't think about the other guys. I think about me. Every year is the same situation. In the first half, I don't play, and in the second half, I start playing more."

Rivera and Willits bring different attributes. Rivera adds right-handed power, while the switch-hitting Willits adds speed to the lineup and is the better defender.

Matthews is hitting .217 entering Sunday's game, but he's tied for second on the club with 24 RBIs, and Scioscia said he's not ready to bench Matthews beyond a rest day. So Rivera waits.

"I think as the season moves on, I think we're trying to give Juan as many looks as we can," Scioscia said. "It is tough to get guys like Reggie and Juan the at-bats they need and the looks they need, but [Rivera has] shown that he's come off the bench and swung the bat well for us."

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

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