Matsui returns to outfield in Angels’ win

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)—Hideki Matsui(notes) is confident he can play defense, despite the knee problems that have hampered the slugger the past couple of years.

The Japanese slugger was in left field for the first time this spring as the Los Angeles Angels beat a Los Angeles Dodgers split-squad 4-2 on Monday.

Matsui, who signed a free-agent deal with the Angels over the winter, hasn’t played defense in a regular-season game since June 15, 2008, for the New York Yankees against the Houston Astros.

Matsui did not have any balls hit his way and was removed for a pinch runner in the fifth inning after going 1 for 2.

“You just have to get that feel back and get back to good form over time,” he said. “I just have to make sure I stay loose.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia sold Matsui on coming to Anaheim by promising some games in the outfield.

“Hideki is moving well,” Scioscia said. “He’s a very experienced player. I don’t think there’s much we need to see on how he can catch a fly ball. We’ll evaluate him tomorrow and see how his knees feel. We want to pace him into this.”

Dodgers manager Joe Torre saw Matsui play plenty of outfield when he was in the Yankees’ dugout.

“I can pull for him because he’s not in our league,” Torre said. “He’s a special guy. The Angels are lucky to have him.”

Jeff Mathis(notes) homered and drove in three runs for the Angels. Joe Saunders(notes) gave up two runs and four hits in five innings.

Saunders was comfortable with his outing outside of an RBI double to former teammate Garret Anderson(notes).

“The one to G.A. was a mistake and we were laughing about it out there,” Saunders said. “It was pretty much a middle fastball. I gave him a cookie.”

Carlos Monasterios, an outside candidate for the Dodgers’ fifth starter spot, gave up three runs and four hits in four innings.

“It’s not only the fifth spot, but it’s a spot on the staff and that’s what we’re looking at now,” Torre said. “We’re not as concerned about who becomes the fifth starter. It’s more about who those 11 or 12 guys (on the pitching staff) are.”

Dodgers reliever George Sherrill(notes) continued to struggle, recording just one out and issuing two walks.

NOTES: OF Jamie Hoffman, a Rule 5 pickup by the Yankees, was offered back to the Dodgers and the team accepted. Hoffman will report to minor league camp but will not be on the 40-man roster. … The Dodgers released veteran SS Angel Berroa(notes). … Angels OF Michael Ryan left in the seventh inning after colliding with SS Gary Patchett. Ryan had swelling under his left eye but the injury is not considered serious. … OF Juan Rivera(notes) was the Angels’ only projected opening-day starter not in the lineup.

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