10/01/2002 8:53 pm ET
MLBeat: Fullmer on fire
Angels' DH enters playoffs on a tear
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Brad Fullmer picked a great time to get hot.
Fullmer, who came to Anaheim in a trade in the offseason to bolster the Angels' shaky production from the designated hitter position, was the team's hottest hitter down the stretch.
He led the team with a .373 batting average in September, raising his season average from .274 to .289. He also hit nine of his 19 homers and accounted for 25 of his 59 RBIs in the last two months of the season. His production was one of the big reasons the Angels made the playoffs for the first time since 1986.
"I feel great lately," Fullmer says. "A lot of times this year I felt like I was on the verge, but in the last few weeks, I've really gotten to where I want to be."
Fullmer is a hit-a-holic. He carries a bat almost everywhere he goes and practices his stance in front of his locker before games.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia says nobody has a more stringent ethic than Fullmer, who "works hard almost to a fault."
Fullmer stumbled out of the gate once the regular season started, batting .219 with no home runs and five RBIs in April.
But under the tutelage of hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, Fullmer figured out his problems.
"I've gotten better at being short with my swing, but it's not all mechanical," Fullmer says. "I think that last year (with Toronto), I was trying to hit 30 homers because I've done that before (Fullmer hit 32 for Toronto in 2000), and that carried over into this year. Now, I'm just trying to stay back and trust my hands."
And Scioscia will trust the left-handed-hitting Fullmer in the DH role against right-handers, whom Fullmer is hitting .301 against this year.
"It's a great time for Brad to find his swing," Scioscia says. "And being a left-handed hitter in this park is an advantage. He's swinging the bat right now, and we hope he keeps that stroke."
Scioscia will likely use right-handed batter Shawn Wooten in the DH spot against left-hander Andy Pettitte in Game 2 of the Division Series.
Wooten batted .292 in 113 at-bats after missing the first half of the season because of injuries. He hit .282 against lefties while Fullmer had a .222 average against southpaws.
"Woot's a big right-handed bat we're going to need against their lefties," Scioscia says.
Fast learning for Figgins: Chone Figgins, the Angels' designated pinch-runner for the first round of the playoffs, looked out at the field at Yankee Stadium and admitted he still is somewhat in disbelief at the turn his life has taken in the last six weeks.
Figgins, 24, was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake in late August when Tim Salmon went on the disabled list with a hand injury and electrified the Angels by scoring the game-winning run in an Angels' win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Now he will be counted on to utilize his speed on the base paths to possibly score similarly crucial runs as the Angels try to advance through the postseason.
"It doesn't get any better than this," Figgins says. "It's like, who would have thought I'd be here? To be a part of all this is amazing."
Figgins batted .305 in 125 games for Salt Lake, scoring 100 runs, hitting 18 triples and stealing 39 bases.
He says his job in the playoffs is to score as many runs as possible.
"It's a pressure moment when you're called on to do that in a close game," he says. "But it's also an exciting moment. It's one I want to be put in."
Lackey leanings: Scioscia says that it's possible that rookie John Lackey will not start a game in this series but that it will be determined as the series progresses.
Scioscia pointed to ace Jarrod Washburn's outstanding effort on three days' rest in Oakland on Sept. 17 -- three hits allowed and four strikeouts in eight scoreless innings -- as proof that Washburn could handle a possible Game 5 start.
According to Scioscia, that would leave Lackey as one of the team's primary go-to pitchers for long relief.
"We have some options moving forward," Scioscia says. "Lack is adding depth and a little length, or he could go in extra innings. There are a lot of roles for him."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.