OK, so Angel Manager Gene Mauch says you don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to see that rookie Wally Joyner has earned a starting position at first base. Or that infielder Rick Burleson is very close to completing an admirable comeback after suffering a torn rotator cuff.
Those are the easy ones. Two down, 22 to go.
But what about the Craig Gerber, Jerry Narron or Jack Howell? Finding steady work these days is that much harder, what with the apparent non-reversible edict by General Manager Mike Port that the Angels will make do with 24 players, not the usual 25, this season.
Port says 24 players should be plenty. Mauch says 25 players would be better.
Port says why risk having that 25th man sit on the bench collecting dust when he could be playing regularly in the minors? Mauch says why risk sending a player to the minors when he could help win in the majors?.
Port makes the final decision. Mauch does not.
And so it goes.
Left in the balance are players such as Gerber and Narron, who spent the entire 1985 season with the Angels, and Howell, who split time in Edmonton and Anaheim. Gerber and Howell are infielders. Narron is a catcher.
Predictably so, they aren’t fond of plans to go to a 24-player roster.
“I’m like everybody else,” Narron says, “I’m not too crazy about it. I think it will hurt the contending teams more than the second-division clubs. If you’re a contender, you’re going to need every guy you can get.”
Narron finds himself in the awkward position of being the No. 3 catcher on a team that may be forced to keep just two. Last year, in a similar role, he appeared in 67 games, hit .220 and added 14 RBIs, which came in handy.
This spring, he has a .286 average after 21 at-bats.
“I look at the roster and I know they could just as easily keep me or get rid of me,” he says. “I think I ought to stay. I think I can help the ballclub, but that’s their decision.”
Then there is Gerber, who would gnaw on Narron’s shinguards for the chance at 21 trips to the plate. Instead, he has appeared in just three spring games and has had only two at-bats. That isn’t a good sign, what with opening day less than a week away.
“I don’t know what they feel my job is here,” Gerber says. “I can only do the best I can. I thought I had a good year last year, then I come to spring training and I have two at-bats. I don’t think contending can be used in my case. I haven’t had a chance to contend for a job.
“I’ve pretty much written myself off this team the last two weeks,” he says. “I’m kind of geared on not being on this club when the season begins. You can still hope that you’ll be a part of it, but I don’t see how.”
The Angels can do one of three things with Gerber: Release him, send him to the Angels’ triple-A team in Edmonton, or keep him. Gerber says he feels a trip to Canada coming on.
“I didn’t come to camp expecting a job,” he says. “I came to camp expecting a chance to get one.”
Aside from his personal stake in the move from a 25- to 24-man roster, Gerber says the Angels will be hurt especially because of a starting lineup that, at times, could include six players (excluding pitchers) 35 years or older.
“They’re going to need a blow,” Gerber says. “It’s going to be the utility people who are going to have to pick it up.”
That’s not great news for someone like Howell, a 24-year-old who is considered a third baseman, and little else at the moment.
With seven of his 10 pitching positions essentially set, Manager Gene Mauch must soon make some decisions. Apparently fighting for the final three spots are Jim Slaton, Doug Corbett, Carl Willis, Ken Forsch and T.R. Bryden. Corbett, who pitched poorly last season and appeared in just 30 games, continues to be a pleasant surprise in spring training. He has allowed one run in 10 innings and recorded two saves. “I’ve had enough work to know that I can still get major league hitters out and get them to hit it on the ground most of the time,” says Corbett, who was bothered in 1985 with an injured left knee. “There’s no question in my mind I had to convince (management) because they had no idea how I’d come back physically. I was pretty much not counted.” And now? “I think people have had to reassess my value as a relief pitcher. I’m healthy, I’m throwing strikes and I’m getting about 80% of my outs on the ground.” . . . Nonroster pitcher Chuck Finley has been sent to Mesa, Ariz., for reassignment. Not a fun Tuesday evening for Angel starter Kirk McCaskill, who did his part in an 8-4 loss to the San Diego Padres at Anaheim Stadium in front of 22,445 fans. After retiring nine of the first 10 Padre hitters, McCaskill fell apart in the fourth inning. The Padres scored eight runs--all with two outs--as McCaskill allowed six hits and two walks. He also hit Tim Flannery with a pitch, which wasn’t as bad as the grand slam he gave up to Tony Gwynn later in the inning. Forsch did well, though, pitching three hitless innings for the Angels. And Reggie Jackson provided a few moments of drama with a home run off former New York Yankee teammate Goose Gossage. It was Jackson’s third home run of the spring and his 16th RBI, which leads the Angels. Bobby Grich also hit a home run off Gossage. Grich finished the night with three hits and three RBIs in four at-bats.