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07/10/08 8:18 PM ET
Matthews reacting well to benching
Outfielder unhappy about removal from lineup but understands
By Shawn Shroyer / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- For a former All-Star, Gary Matthews Jr. is taking his benching -- the week before this year's All-Star Game of all weeks -- in stride. Out of the lineup for the second game in a row on Thursday, Matthews spoke about manager Mike Scioscia's decision to sit him out in favor of Juan Rivera. "I don't know if players ever agree with taking days off," Matthews said. "I do know my numbers shouldn't be where they are. Mike and I could have gone back and forth all day on points for why I should or shouldn't be in the lineup. "I was a little surprised. Like I said, we agreed to disagree and I think Mike expects me to disagree." That's not to say his demotion to the bench doesn't hurt. "When you come to the ballpark and you know you won't be in the lineup because you're not helping the team, it stings," Matthews said. Matthews was hoping he'd continue to get a chance to play through his slump, which has lasted virtually all season. Although he's fifth on the team in at-bats this season, his average has only climbed as high as .249 since May 1, and he's currently batting .236 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs. Matthews hasn't hit a home run since June 11 and he has just three long balls since May 1. Since June 1, he has only six RBIs. "It was a horrendous start, but you can't get it back," Matthews said. "The good thing is, I know it can't get any worse." The only way it might get worse is if Rivera continues to succeed in place of Matthews. Rivera has homered in each of his last three starts and has seven RBIs during that span -- a stark improvement over his .177 average and home run total of zero coming into July. "I don't think there's any player who doesn't want to play," Scioscia said. "Gary knows he's not where he needs to be and our goal is to get him where he needs to be. He'll get a chance to play. We just have some guys who are swinging the bat well that are on the bench." However, Scioscia didn't say when Matthews would be back in the lineup. On Wednesday, Scioscia hinted that Matthews was experiencing soreness in his left knee, causing him problems when he tries to bat from the left side of the plate. Matthews confirmed that his knee wasn't 100 percent, but didn't want to make it into a bigger deal than he feels it is. "We're doing work on it," Matthews said. "It's there, but I don't want to use it as an excuse. I honestly don't even want to talk about it. I just want to continue working on it." If there's any silver lining to getting benched for Matthews, it may be the timing. With the All-Star break approaching, he'll have the benefit of getting time off to gather himself mentally and physically, but he won't have to miss out on additional playing time. Either way, Matthews believes he can prove he's worthy of rejoining the starting lineup. "Maybe the timing is part of it," Matthews said. "Everybody in the clubhouse has some aches and pains. I'll go into this All-Star break as an avenue to get better. "I never lose confidence in my ability to play this game. I've never been concerned about what other players are doing, or how it affects me. I truly believe anything will work out like it's supposed to."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.