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Figgins hopes to shake off recent slump

Chone Figgins was terrible to start the season, and finished in a funk. The Los Angeles Angels hope for the playoffs he'll revert to midseason form, as arguably baseball's best hitter.

On May 28, Figgins was hitting .133. He got a few days off, returned to the lineup on May 31 and went 3-4. From that point on, the leadoff hitter raised his average through the roof and took the Angels along with him.

Since May 31, the former Salt Lake player is hitting a major league-best .381, helping the AL West champion Angels into a first-round playoff series against the Boston Red Sox.

His hot bat and prowess on the basepaths make the 5-foot-8 speedster as much of a threat as Vladimir Guerrero's towering home runs.

"He has showed up in a big way," manager Mike Scioscia said.

Figgins will try to end an 0-for-22 slump at the plate when the best-of-5 AL division series opens Wednesday at Boston's Fenway Park.

"I don't see no down notes, nope," he said. "Everything still feels good, that's the good part about it."

Scioscia figures Figgins will be freshened by two days' rest, as he was at the end of May. The switch-hitter missed two weeks in August because of an injured left wrist. Apparently it's bothering him again because he has been wearing a cortisone patch.

In mid-September, Scioscia moved Figgins from third base — where he made most of his starts this season — to right field. He also started a handful of times at second. But the switches didn't affect his hitting.

And if Figgins can get on base, he'll be a distraction to Boston's pitchers. He swiped 40 bases for the third consecutive season.

REPORT LINKS SCHOENEWEIS TO STEROIDS: Relief pitcher Scott Schoeneweis received six shipments of steroids in 2003 and 2004 from the Florida pharmacy under investigation for illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, reported Monday.

Schoeneweis, then with the Chicago White Sox and now with the New York Mets, was prescribed the steroids by Ramon Scruggs of the New Hope Health Center in Tustin, Calif., the Web site said. Scruggs also wrote prescriptions for Toronto third baseman Troy Glaus.

The name of Schoeneweis, a survivor of testicular cancer, appears on packages sent to Comiskey Park in 2003 and 2004 by Signature Pharmacy, said, citing a source in Florida close to the investigation. Schoeneweis spent $1,160 and received testosterone and stanozolol, it said.

MATSUI LIKELY TO DH: Hideki Matsui will likely be a designated hitter when the New York Yankees open the playoffs Thursday at Cleveland.

Matsui hit just .185 in September with two homers and 12 RBIs and had fluid drained from his right knee on Sunday in New York.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said Monday that Johnny Damon could start in left field and that he also was thinking about using rookie Shelley Duncan, a right-handed hitter, against C.C. Sabathia in Game 1.

"I'm pretty comfortable with way Johnny's played left field," Torre said.

Matsui hit .274 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in 164 at-bats against left-handers, and Duncan hit .303 (10-for-33) with three homers and 10 RBIs against them.

DICE-K TO PITCH GAME 2: Daisuke Matsuzaka will follow Josh Beckett in Boston's postseason rotation against the Angels, leaving Curt Schilling for Game 3 when the series shifts to Anaheim.

The Red Sox decided to have Schilling pitch on Sunday instead of Friday to give him two extra days of rest. If Boston's first-round series goes the full five games, Schilling would be in line to pitch the opener of the AL championship series against the New York Yankees or Cleveland.

"We're trying to gear up for 2 1/2 or 3 weeks of starts," manager Terry Francona said Monday.

Schilling last pitched Sept. 25, when he allowed one run in six innings of a 7-3 victory over Oakland. Francona isn't worried that Schilling will be rusty.

"I really don't have any qualms about it or I wouldn't have done it," Francona said.