PHOENIX (AP) - It has been nearly 10 years since the Angels made catcher Jeff Mathis their No. 1 pick in the draft.
He worked his way up through the minor leagues and last year, when it appeared he was on the verge of coming into his own with the big club, he broke his right wrist early in the season and missed 55 games.
Now, with Mike Napoli traded away, the path appears to be free and clear for Mathis, who turns 28 on opening day.
Mathis hit his first homer this spring and drove in three runs as Los Angeles beat the Oakland Athletics 10-3 Friday.
Mathis hopes his spring average of .375 is an example of what is to come. He enters the 2011 season with a career average of .199.
``Jeff has swung the bat well this spring. He needs to carry it over into the regular season,' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``He had a great 2009 postseason, but because of the injury, he was never really able to get his stroke.'
Mathis is eager to get going. His homer highlighted a four-run third against Brandon McCarthy, and Mathis added an RBI single in the fifth.
``It feels great, knock on wood,' Mathis said. ``I've worked on some things this spring and things have worked out so far.'
He is excited about working with the Angels' staff and Scioscia, a former catcher, likes how Mathis works with the pitchers. The team has a solid backup in Bobby Wilson.
The Angels got an effective pitching outing from starter Matt Palmer, who gave up one run and four hits in six innings. The run came on Andy LaRoche's fourth homer, helping his bid to become one of Oakland's utilitymen.
Howie Kendrick added three hits and two RBIs for the Angels.
Angels designated hitter Hideki Matsui was hitless in four at_bats, dropping his average to .115.
NOTES: Oakland optioned OF Chris Carter to Triple-A Sacramento. ... The Angels wrap up the Arizona portion of their spring on Saturday with a game against the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Ariz. ... Oakland 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff raised his average to .412 with two hits. ... A's 1B Daric Barton is set to return to action on Saturday night against Colorado after missing time with a strained leg muscle.
The Associated Press News Service
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