Angel Notebook : Dust May Be Flying at Big A This Season

Times Staff Writer

The Angels have played just three games in Angels Stadium here, but the fans who annually come to the desert for an early look have had plenty of opportunities to see the new, speedier 1987 model in action.

Rookies Devon White and Mark McLemore--along with Gary Pettis, the sole speedster on last year's team--have run down fly balls that used to fall for hits and run the bases with abandon.

So will the 1987 Angels be more exciting than the 1986 version?

"If these kids are hitting the ball, I think there will be a lot of dust flying around the infield," Manager Gene Mauch said. "And if flying dust excites you like it excites me, then we'll be exciting."

The Angels and the A's battled to a standoff for 12 innings Sunday before Oakland went ahead, 3-2, in the 13th. But the Angels came back to win it in the bottom of the 13th when McLemore singled, Wally Joyner walked and Doug DeCinces doubled them both home.

DeCinces, who had 26 home runs and 96 runs batted-in last season, is one of the Angels' few remaining power hitters. The veteran third baseman isn't necessarily opposed to this youth movement, but he's not making any rash predictions, either.

DeCinces is hoping this team will be able to accomplish as much as last years' did.

Well, maybe one strike more.

"We were a team one pitch away from the World Series and now we're a whole different team," DeCinces said. "That's just the way it is and we have to adjust. I see a lot of young talent on this team . . . inexperienced, young talent."

DeCinces realizes that because he is no longer lodged in the middle of a power-laden lineup, he may not see as many good pitches as he did in 1986.

"I never did see too many fastballs, anyway," he said, smiling. "But, yes, I understand that might very well be the case. I'll just have to do the best I can to adjust.

"I refuse to put any added pressure on myself, though. Just because I'm one of two guys they chose to re-sign, you can't say it's up to me and Brian (Downing) to carry the team. That's just not fair and I won't accept it.

"Brian and I have talked about it and we're just going to play our best and let the numbers fall where they may. Maybe that's the best kind of leadership we can show."

Downing, destined to be a designated hitter this season, admits that he faces some major adjustments, too.

"It's tough to get a pulse on this team because we're experimenting with so many different lineups now," he said. "But this team is a big transformation for me.

"I've never played on a team built around pitching and speed. In my 10 years here, we've always had guys like Reggie (Jackson) and (Don) Baylor and (Bobby) Grich and on and on.

"Maybe we'll be more exciting, but when it's all said and done it's whether you win or lose."

Mauch says he doesn't know if opposing pitchers will try to pitch around DeCinces and Downing, but he doesn't think they'll have much success if they do.

"I remember a game in Kansas City a few years back," he said. "Dennis Leonard was pitching for the Royals. The game was tied and we (the Twins) had a guy on second. He pitched around Rod Carew and walked him. He pitched careful to Larry Hisle and walked him to load the bases. Then Danny Ford walked, Butch Wynegar doubled and we ended up getting five runs.

"What I'm trying to say is I hope we can create a situation where if you try to avoid the frying pan, you just might get yourself right in the flames."

Angel Notes

Manager Gene Mauch was sitting in the dugout before Sunday's game, detailing a scenario that would help him gain insight into the role of right-hander Willie Fraser. Fraser, who is competing with Urbano Lugo for the fifth starting spot, has pitched very well this spring. But then so has Lugo, who has more big-league experience. Mauch wanted to see if Fraser could shut down an opponent when the Angels had a small lead late in the game. He got his wish. Fraser came on in the eighth inning with the Angels leading, 2-1. He gave up two hits and a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the ninth, though. While Fraser may not have passed the test with flying colors, Mauch seemed satisfied. "He handled the situation well, very well," Mauch said. "I don't intend to have Fraser be a nobody on this club. If he's here, I want him to be a somebody. He's too good of a prospect to be a nobody.". . . Reggie Jackson, making his first appearance in nine days because of a sore wrist, pinch-hit in the eighth. He got all of Fraser's first pitch, sending a prodigious shot high over the right-field foul pole and onto the roof of a building in the school adjacent to the park. First-base umpire Nick Bremigan called it foul and Jackson argued. As Jackson walked back toward home, Wally Joyner followed right on his heels, barking in his ear. Jackson was smiling, but he wheeled and shoved Joyner good-naturedly. "I was razzing him good," Joyner said proudly. . . . Carney Lansford's solo home run to left in the first inning broke Mike Witt's eight-inning no-hit streak. Witt had retired 29 batters in a row since giving up three hits March 9.

Gary Lucas, who missed the first half of last season because of a back problem, has been nursing a sore shoulder. He threw off a mound Saturday and said he felt much better physically and emotionally. "I felt much better after that," Lucas said Sunday. "I think most of my problem has been with dealing with the first significant arm pain of my life. A week ago, when I pitched in Tucson, it was really bugging me and it was quite sore and stiff for a couple of days afterwards. I was pretty down then." Lucas said he hopes to pitch sometime this week and get in "three or four good outings before the bell."

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