Figgings’ versatility invaluable

first_img When the Angels players convened recently to vote for the Gene Autry Trophy, representative of the team’s MVP, Figgins was named co-winner, along with pitcher Bartolo Colon. “You can talk about Vlad (Guerrero), Frankie (Rodriguez), Bart, go down the list of guys, John Lackey, Scot Shields,” said Scioscia, whose team opens the American League Division Series at home today against the New York Yankees. ANAHEIM – Chone Figgins began the season batting ninth because Angels manager Mike Scioscia wanted to configure the lineup in a way to best “set the table for the big boys,” Vladimir Guerrrero and Garret Anderson. Turns out, Figgins is a big boy himself. “It’s very important to me,” Figgins said of his relationships with teammates. “I got an opportunity to play more because of injuries, and sometimes I make mistakes defensively. But they never get down on me. They always pick me up. They say, `Don’t worry about it.’ To get their vote for team MVP means everything to me.” Figgins began the season as the starting second baseman because regular starter Adam Kennedy was recovering from off-season knee surgery. After Kennedy returned, Figgins found time at third base because of Dallas McPherson’s physical problems. And when center fielder Steve Finley’s troubles at the plate became too much for the Angels to bear, Figgins made his way to center on a more consistent basis. Figgins not only moves around from day to day, but he has changed positions during a game, a couple times in the same inning. He makes it look as easy as a simple change of gloves, but it isn’t. “It’s still tough to this point, having to come to the park ready to play but not knowing where,” said Figgins, who has started 47 games at third base, 45 in center field, 36 at second base, one at shortstop, seven in right field and 12 in left. “In the outfield, you have to know where the cutoff man is going to be, what the `no-doubles’ sign is, know where to back guys up. Then in the infield, you’ve got your bunt plays, and you have to know all the different signs for those.” Figgins has heard the talk that baseball should create a Gold Glove award for utility players, but that isn’t likely to happen. He knows the best way to become an All-Star is to have one position to call his own. But he isn’t about to bemoan his role, even if it continues beyond this season. “It’s helping me become a major league player,” said Figgins, 27. “A lot of people in baseball would love to do what I do. Maybe being a player that plays every position is my role. As long as it keeps me on the field.” Figgins said his favorite position is “on the field,” but with further prodding, he admitted that shortstop is “where my heart is.” Figgins was primarily a shortstop coming up through the minors. “His best position is probably second base,” Scioscia said. “But he’s so athletic and works so hard he’s making improvements everywhere he plays.” Offensively, Figgins hit .290 with eight homers and 57 RBI in a team-high 158 games. He also led the team in hits (186), runs (113) and stolen bases (62). His 186 hits set the Angels record for a switch hitter, and his 62 steals was most in the majors. “The best way to learn is just by being out there,” Figgins said of stealing bases. “But I study a lot of video, watch what pitchers do with men on base. Are they quick to first? Do they use a slide step (to the plate)? Still, the best way to read a pitcher is to take your lead off first base.” Figgins still has a score to settle. He had a rough time in the playoffs last year against the Red Sox, going 2-for-14 at the plate, committing a baserunning gaffe and making two errors in the field. “It’s unfair to talk about Chone because our whole team did not play to the level we hoped,” Scioscia said. “It wasn’t just Chone that had a tough series, a lot of guys didn’t get into their game. In a short series things happen quickly.” “Stuff happens,” Figgins explained. “I played 100 percent and that’s all I can do. We got beat by the team that went on to win the World Series.” Figgins has a World Series ring of his own, but that was when his role was limited to pinch-runner in 2002. This time, he will be in the middle of things. “It’d be fun,” he said. “It’d be cool to win.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 “Chone, for a number of reasons, sticks out as a reason we’re going to the playoffs. His versatility from day one, all the changes he made, everything he did was so important. Figgy had a helluva year.” Figgins, who is 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, didn’t last long in the ninth spot, moving up to leadoff. And while his place in the batting order has remained a constant, his locker full of gloves makes it clear he is used all over the field. He began the season as a player without a position, but his “Have glove, will travel” role got him into more games than any other Angel. He won the Major League stolen base crown, he’s the first Angel ever to score at least 100 runs and steal at least 50 bases in a season, and he’s done it while playing every position except pitcher, catcher and first base. “He’s like having three players,” said Angels first baseman Darin Erstad, who admitted he voted for Figgins. “When you can play so many positions, it opens up the roster for more players. It takes a very unselfish guy to do that, and he never complains. It’s hard enough playing one position, and he can play a bunch of ’em well. He’s amazing.” Figgins admits he is humbled by his teammates’ acknowledgement of him. He spends a lot of time talking with Anderson and has learned enough Spanish to make small talk with Guerrero and the other Latin players. last_img

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