02/19/10 7:58 PM EST
Matsui, big bat arrive (reporters too)
DH, making splash at Angels camp, hopes to play outfield
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"I may have a short-term memory," Matsui said through a grin and the translation of Roger Kahlon on Friday, arriving for Spring Training at Tempe Diablo Stadium. "There have been many games that were memorable, but that's certainly one that stands out."
Matsui was referring, of course, to Game 6 of the World Series, his two-homer, six-RBI demolition of the Phillies that clinched the championship for his Yankees -- and the World Series MVP award for the slugging designated hitter.
Known as "Godzilla" since his high school days in Japan, Matsui met some of his new teammates on Friday, the familiar trail of Japanese media recording his every move and word.
Matsui is coming to a calmer, quieter place in Orange County, Calif., but it will change nothing, he said, in his approach to the game or the media.
"That's completely in the past for me," he said when asked about his ties to New York. "As soon as I put on the new uniform, that makes a new beginning. Coming to the West Coast, to the Los Angeles area, I'm looking forward to playing with a good team."
Matsui said he holds the hope of being able to play in the outfield again after knee issues have limited him to DH duties, adding that he will do whatever the Angels have in mind.
"Physically, I feel pretty good," he said. "To be honest, my knees aren't 100 percent. Overall, I feel pretty good."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has made it abundantly clear that Matsui was signed to a one-year, $6 million deal for his bat, one that has thundered throughout his illustrious career in Japan with the Tokyo Giants and in the Bronx with the Bombers.
Replacing Vladimir Guerrero, Matsui figures to hit in the middle of the order from the DH spot with two other former Yankees -- Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu -- in the outfield along with Torii Hunter.
Scioscia and Matsui had a conversation before the 35-year-old native of Ishikawa, Japan, decided to bring his left-handed bat to the Angels.
"He had some questions as far as what our team might shape up like," Scioscia said. "What was important to him was how much outfield he might play. We're a versatile team. If Hideki can play some outfield, it's going to enable us to rest some guys.
"We need him swinging the bat in our offense. We have seen him for a while and know what kind of hitter he can be."
Scioscia added that Matsui will be eased into the outfield. The last thing the Angels want is a repeat of 2009, when Guerrero twice sustained injuries in the outfield, sending him to the disabled list for extended periods.
Matsui hasn't used the glove in a game situation since 2008, when he appeared in 34 games in the outfield. He had played 112 games in the Yankees' outfield in 2007, joining Abreu.
In his seven seasons in New York, Matsui batted .292 with a .482 slugging percentage, producing 140 homers and 597 RBIs.
He elevated his game consistently in postseason play, batting .312 with a .541 slugging percentage. He delivered 10 homers and 39 RBIs in 56 games.
Matsui wore with distinction the uniform of the Yomiuri Giants, who entertained Japanese fans in the same uniform colors of the San Francisco Giants.
"Media and fans in Japan are probably wondering how Matsui is going to look in red," he said, grinning.
He said he has embraced his nickname, handed to him by a media member while he was at Seiryo High School in Nagoya City, Japan, after he homered in a tournament game.
"Looking back," he said, "I thought it was a good name, because I realized when I came to the U.S. that people were familiar with Godzilla.
"It was something that was pretty interesting."
In New York, they'll never forget Game 6 of the 2009 World Series when Hideki Matsui emerged as a combination of Godzilla, King Kong and Superman. His finale in the uniform of the Yankees was epic.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.