Matos sees his future and finds a lot to like

NL notebook

July 30, 2006|By COMPILED FROM INTERVIEWS AND OTHER NEWSPAPERS' REPORTS.

He had to switch leagues and leave the only organization he has known, so former Orioles outfielder Luis Matos thought positively earlier this month.

His new team, the Washington Nationals, didn't have a set center fielder. It'd be a fresh start. And, most important, he didn't have to move his growing family.

"With all the bad things that happened this year, I am going to have my baby, so it's all good," Matos said.

Matos and his wife, Vivian, are expecting their first child, a daughter, in October. Signing with Washington has allowed the couple to stay in downtown Baltimore while she continues her prenatal care at Sinai Hospital and he attempts to revive his career without missing too much time at home.

"I think it was time to move on," Matos said. "I was [in Baltimore] for six years and I kept getting hurt almost every year. I was happy because they gave me the chance every year, but this year I don't think they gave me the chance to prove that I can play every day. But that happens."

Matos, now 27, was the club's center fielder of the future when he debuted in 2000. His breakout year came in 2003, when he hit .303 with 13 homers and 15 stolen bases. But he couldn't stay healthy, and he regressed.

"It was the injuries. That's something I can blame it on," Matos said. "I don't want to put excuses on everything, but they knew when I was healthy I was playing good all the time."

Each of the past three seasons, Matos was the Orioles' Opening Day center fielder; each year he lost the job. This season, he hurt his shoulder in early April and was passed on the outfield depth chart by Corey Patterson and Nick Markakis, among others. Matos was batting just .207 with two homers and five RBIs when he was released.

From an outfield standpoint, the Nationals don't look like a great fit, either. Austin Kearns likely will move from center to left if Alfonso Soriano is traded. But Matos, who has started just one game in two weeks, then will have to fight Ryan Church and Alex Escobar for a starting spot. He's not worried.

"They haven't established themselves in the big leagues; they haven't hit .300 in the big leagues yet," Matos said of his new competition. "I am just waiting for my chance so they can see that I can play good and that I can play every day."

Willis staying put

Florida ace Dontrelle Willis has said all year that he doesn't want to be traded, and the club's front office again last week said he was off the market. The always-smiling Willis, who is under contract through 2009, was pleased.

"I want to stay ... I just love it here."

Slugging Zambrano

After going deep against New York's Tom Glavine on Tuesday, Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano has four homers in 46 at-bats this season. Half of his hits have been homers. After Tuesday, his homer-to-at-bat ratio of 11.5 was slightly higher than those of sluggers Travis Hafner, Adam Dunn and Manny Ramirez.

Quick hits

The New York Mets could deal Aaron Heilman for a starter, but then they'd need to make another trade to fill Heilman's bullpen spot. ... San Diego Padres reliever Scott Linebrink was claimed off waivers from the Houston Astros in 2003 for $20,000. Now he's one of the most coveted players in this summer's trade market.

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