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Figgins proving he's still got game after year off

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LOS ANGELES -- Chone Figgins didn't need to be released by the Marlins last March or sit out all of last season to earn the chip on his shoulder. It's something Figgins has always had -- the nagging desire to improve, to push his own boundaries.

The 36-year-old brought that mindset with him to Spring Training, and it's carried through with him this season as a Dodger.

"I've played with a chip on my shoulder from Day 1 of signing [to play] professional baseball, whether I was going good or whatever," Figgins said. "I've always played with a chip on my shoulder. Not in a cocky way. It's more of to keep getting better as a player."

After a brief stint in Triple-A Albuquerque in late April, Figgins has been a go-to player for manager Don Mattingly off of the bench. He batted leadoff and played third for the Dodgers in Monday night's 5-2 win against the White Sox, leading off the first with a single, and he batted seventh and played third on Tuesday.

Figgins is batting .244/.392/.317 on the season, but both he and Mattingly said that his bat speed has improved throughout the course of the season after sitting out all of last year.

"I've been putting a lot more better swings on the ball, so that's a good sign," Figgins said. "I'm driving some balls. I'm starting to play a little bit more, too. But as far as driving some balls, I'm starting to do that more, and I'm starting to hit my slots where I want to as far hitting balls in certain places."

A career .277 hitter, Figgins said he's never lost in faith in his skills.

"It was never doubt as far as my ability, it was more just upsetting that I didn't get picked up," Figgins said. "I had a good spring last year, and there was moves to be made, and I think that's what made it tougher more than anything.

"The more rewarding part is I'm showing that I still have it, after not playing for a year. I still have some more work to do, but it's moving in the direction I want it to."

Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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