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.