Twins-Angels Preview

The Los Angeles Angels signed Joel Pineiro to take over the
rotation spot that had been held by John Lackey since 2002.

That’s not the only position that will have a different look in
their next game.

Pineiro makes his Angels debut while Hideki Matsui will start in
left field for the first time in almost two years when the Angels
look to split a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins on
Thursday night.

Los Angeles (1-2) lost Lackey, who won 102 games over eight
seasons, to free agency in the offseason, but it believes it has a
capable replacement in Pineiro, who spent the last two-plus seasons
with the Cardinals after beginning his career in the AL with
Seattle and Boston.

Pineiro went 15-12 with a 3.49 ERA last season with St. Louis
and had a solid spring with the Angels, going 4-0 with a 4.38 ERA
in six starts.

The right-hander will try to get Los Angeles back on track after
dropping two straight to the Twins (2-1) following a series-opening
win. However, he is 2-6 with a 4.32 ERA against Minnesota,
including a loss last season.

One of the keys will be trying to find a way to quiet Justin
Morneau and J.J. Hardy, who each homered for the second straight
game in Minnesota’s 4-2 win Wednesday. Hardy, who batted a
career-low .229 last season with Milwaukee, is 4 for 12 in the
first three games.

“Once the season was over, I just spent the entire offseason
forgetting about last year,” Hardy said. “My swing’s getting to
where I want it to be. It’s pretty close, but it’s definitely
better now than at any point last year.”

Morneau is 6 for 14 with three home runs off Pineiro while Joe
Mauer is 13 for 18 with four doubles and a triple.

The Angels lost Wednesday despite getting three hits from
Matsui, who had two hits, including a home run in the season
opener. On Thursday, Matsui, who replaced Vladimir Guerrero at DH,
will play in the outfield for the first time since June 15, 2008,
when he was in left field against Houston.

The World Series MVP wanted more of a complete role with the
Angels after being limited by knee troubles with the Yankees.

“I feel like it has a positive effect, staying on the field all
the time and playing defense,” Matsui told the Angels’ official Web
site. “I believe strongly that when you’re on the field all the
time, you’re always in the game – as opposed to DHing.”

Matsui and the Angels will try to avoid a three-game losing
streak when they oppose Kevin Slowey, who is looking to rebound
after being limited to 16 starts because of a right wrist injury
that eventually led to surgery to fix a bone chip. Slowey was 10-3
with a 4.86 ERA before the injury.

“The only thing we were worried about with Kevin is that he’s
healthy, and he’s healthy,” manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins’
official Web site. “He’s feeling good. His arm feels good, his
wrist is good. … We’re happy with where he’s at. Not surprised,
just happy.”

Slowey is 2-1 with a 4.57 ERA against the Angels, beating them
with seven strong innings April 18 in his lone matchup last
season.

Bobby Abreu is 4 for 10 with a double and a home run off
Slowey.