Willits in, Matthews out

Gary Matthews Jr. was a late scratch on Wednesday evening after experiencing tightness in his lower back. Replacing Matthews in right field and in the No. 2 spot in the order against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was Reggie Willits, making his first start of the season.

Willits,recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on May 5, is hitless in two career at-bats against Wakefield.

Willits, who set a club record for rookies in batting average (.293) and on-base percentage (.391) in 2007, has had two at-bats in three game appearances this year. He’s 0-for-1 with a sacrifice, having gotten a sacrifice bunt down on Tuesday night as a pinch-hitter for Juan Rivera.

Willits, fifth in the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year balloting, is trying to recapture the form that made him a valuable member of that division-winning team after an injury-riddled 2008.

Matthews is hitting .271 with 12 RBIs and 11 runs scored in 19 games as an all-purpose outfielder and occasional DH.

Before Tuesday night’s game, Willits was joking with Rivera about replacing him after Rivera had gunned down a runner at the plate with a perfect throw from left center.

Asked if he had ever bunted in a Major League game, Rivera searched his memory and recalled a two-strike bunt he executed in 2005. The slugging Venezuelan actually had two sacrifice bunts that season.

Nobody could imagine Vladimir Guerrero ever being asked to bunt, however. It turns out Guerrero does have one sacrifice bunt in his professional career — with the Expos’ rookie team in 1993, his first pro season. He was 18.

 

 

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