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Matthews back in lineup for opener

Matthews returns to Angels' lineup

ANAHEIM -- Gary Matthews Jr., who was diagnosed with a small tear to the patellar tendon in his left knee Saturday, returned to the Angels' starting lineup Monday for the first time since July 12.

Matthews started in right field and batted eighth against Indians right-hander Paul Byrd. Matthews said Sunday that he would start on days when his knee felt good, and Monday was one of those days.

"He's feeling much better," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's going to be a matter of seeing where he is when he's out there. I think that little break will do him well. I think a little break has done him well. We're going to evaluate where he is as we move forward."

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Matthews' knee tear is one that can heal on its own over time and doesn't require surgery unless it's a complete tear. The switch-hitter said it hurts most when he sits in his stance when he bats left-handed, when he bursts out of the box to run to first and when he starts and stops running.

His knee has bothered him since the last month of the 2007 season, when he was diagnosed with tendinitis and missed the playoffs. But he re-aggravated the knee in Spring Training, and it has bothered him all season.

It has affected his approach at the plate, and it has shown in his numbers, as the 33-year-old outfielder has batted .235 with seven homers and 34 RBIs along with a .310 on-base percentage in 89 games this season.

Scioscia said the plan for now is to play Matthews to see how his knee responds to playing in the outfield and batting.

"He's got to get out there and play," Scioscia said. "As a player plays, you can't evaluate him until he gets out there and does what he needs to do. We'll get a read on him. You're not going to get the whole story in one night, but if he's going to contribute, he needs to get out there."

Rhett Bollinger 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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