Could Matsui be heading to the bench soon?

A healthy Jeff Mathis could spell trouble for struggling DH Hideki Matsui, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Angels last December.

Mathis, who has been sidelined since April 20 because of a broken bone in his right wrist, is hoping to begin his minor league rehab soon and once he’s ready to return to the club, Matsui’s spot in the lineup could be in danger. Mathis is the Halos’ best defensive catcher, but Mike Napoli has been the club’s hottest hitter this month and could move to the DH position that is currently being occupied by Matsui.

Even though Matsui is hitting just .229 with a .302 on-base percentage this year, his manager Mike Scioscia told the L.A. Times that he’s not giving up on the veteran hitter.

“His track record — and I mean recent track record, not seven years ago — is clear,” Scioscia said. “Maybe his timing is not right, maybe he hasn’t squared balls up on a consistent basis, but he’s shown that it’s in there; he was our best hitter the first three weeks of the season. We’re confident he’s going to be productive.”

Matsui said through an interpreter that he “feels good physically,” though one has to wonder whether his arthritic knees aren’t a factor in his struggles.

“The results just aren’t there,” Matsui said, “so I’m going to have to keep working until they are.”

The killer for the Angels is that Vladimir Guerrero, the man who hit in the DH position last year, is now hitting .339 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI for division rival Texas. The Halos thought they had sewn up their hole at DH last winter with the signing of Matsui, but in the early going it appears that allowing Vlad to escape to Texas was a poor decision.

It’s kind of amazing to think that the 2009 World Series MVP might be benched soon, but if Matsui doesn’t start hitting that scenario will surely become a reality.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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