TEMPE, Ariz. – One toe in the water, one hand on his contract, Gary Matthews Jr. on Wednesday denied he'd taken HGH in 2004, when the feds seem reasonably sure the stuff showed up in his mailbox alongside the gas bill and the Pennysaver.
Here's the thing: The Los Angeles Angels aren't completely satisfied with Matthews' statement, which did not address the fact he reportedly received HGH 2½ years ago. They also had hoped he would have stood before reporters and answered their questions, rather than have the team distribute a sheet of paper he would then use as a shield.
Whatever owner Arte Moreno's motivation here – organizational transparency, accountability to the fans, a notion of whether Matthews will be in the lineup or on the suspended list come opening day, or wriggling out of the contract – Matthews and his people apparently have again disappointed their new franchise.
Asked specifically about allegations he received HGH, Matthews told reporters, "I made my statement. That's it."
So, this appears to be what Moreno and the Angels will have to live with, Matthews protecting his legal rights, a statement issued for get-off-my-back's sake, and a lesser likelihood that Moreno would attempt to discipline Matthews by his opening day deadline.
Several days ago, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he'd begun the process of building contingencies if Matthews were not available. He played Erick Aybar in center field. He has Reggie Willits. Chone Figgins has played there before, plenty of times. Matthews himself homered in Wednesday afternoon's game against the San Francisco Giants.
In the wake of Matthews' statement – "I have never taken HGH" was the highlight – Scioscia could not say if his fear of being caught short in center field and in the lineup were allayed.
"I don't know," he said. "I think it's important, Gary says he's never used HGH. I think that's an important part of the statement. Hopefully, we'll move on from here. It's tough to [know] what's going to happen the next couple weeks.
"I don't know if it's totally resolved. In our mind, in Gary's statement, we're relieved he didn't use the substance."
On redirect, Matthews didn't stand still for long.
"I made my statement," he said. "Now I'm going to go back to work like I always did. … I'm not a professional [lawyer]. If someone advises me to follow the rules, I do what I'm told to do."
Scioscia said he believed Matthews appeared to be "a little anxious, a little relieved this morning," but Matthews emerged from a 25-minute meeting in Scioscia's office – general manager Bill Stoneman, vice president Tim Mead, Scioscia and Matthews were present, Moreno was not – disputing that.
"I wasn't worried about it from the beginning," he said. "I didn't want it to be a distraction.
"It's been family time as usual. It's been business as usual. The only difference has been you guys asking questions and wasting air time."
Asked then if he was feeling pressure to produce, Matthews said, "Pressure is how you worry about taking care of your family for the rest of your life. That's pressure."
In the irony of the day, commissioner Bud Selig, who four days ago urged Matthews to state what he knew, responded to Matthews' statement by withholding comment.
"At this point," read the statement, "my office is still investigating the matter in question and it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment on the substance of Mr. Matthews' statement."
Mr. Matthews' lawyers couldn't have written it better themselves.
- Mike Scioscia