As Angels make run, Finley takes a seat

AL notebook

Baseball Week

September 04, 2005

When Los Angeles Angels signed outfielder Steve Finley to a two-year, $14 million contract, the team proclaimed its new prize as a 40-year-old with a much younger body and energy level.

Now, as the Angels battle the Oakland Athletics in a tense, American League West race, Finley has been relegated to the bench. Manager Mike Scioscia announced that Finley had lost his center-field job to Chone Figgins, who has played six different positions this season.

"We need to get some offense going, and we're going to go with productive bats," Scioscia said. "Not that Steve's not ever going to play."

The Angels have been stuck around the .500 mark in the second half after compiling a 52-36 record before the All-Star break. The offense has struggled and Finley has been the most obvious culprit, batting just .143 in August.

After hitting 36 homers and driving 94 runs last year with two National League teams, Finley had just nine homers, 48 RBIs and a .215 average heading into September.

"He's had some issues," Scioscia said. "He's had some physical issues combined with changing leagues and getting used to hitting backgrounds, pitchers, the whole thing."

Finley, who debuted with the Orioles in 1989 but was traded to Houston as part of the ill-fated Glenn Davis deal in 1991, had been in the NL most of his career.

He believes his poor numbers aren't because of advancing age or a new league but a shoulder injury that altered his mechanics. A five-time Gold Glover, he banged his right shoulder into an outfield wall in the season's second game and tried to play through the pain, eventually landing on the disabled list in June.

"I was making every adjustment I could with my swing to make it work, and I created a lot of bad habits in the process," Finley said. "Any hitter will tell you if you do something like that it takes a while to get all the bad stuff out and, unfortunately, I've been trying to do that during the season. It makes it a struggle."

Manager says otherwise

Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle accused the Texas Rangers of stealing signs and using a light in center field to tip off hitters after he allowed seven runs (four earned) in a recent seven-inning loss. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen didn't see it the same way.

"The way Buehrle pitched, it seemed like they didn't need no signs," Guillen said. "Everything Buehrle pitched was right down the middle ... He didn't have his stuff."

Tough Sal

When Oakland's Bobby Crosby slid into Orioles catcher Sal Fasano's shin guards last Saturday, it seemed incidental. Crosby played six more innings that day and homered. On Wednesday, a magnetic resonance imaging showed that Crosby has a non-displaced left ankle fracture and will miss three weeks during the pennant race.

Quick hits

New York's Mike Mussina recently had back-to-back outings where he didn't pitch a combined eight innings. The last time he failed to total eight innings in two starts was in 1999 with the Orioles ... Torii Hunter (left ankle fracture) could be back in October if the Twins make the postseason.

League notebooks are compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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