Armas, 34, Called Up; Pettis Sent to Minors

Times Staff Writer

The Angels, in an ever-widening search to bolster their roster for the pennant drive, called up veteran outfielder Tony Armas Tuesday from their Triple-A Edmonton club and sent slumping Gary Pettis to Edmonton.

The Angels hope Armas will provide the extra push needed in their quest for the American League Western Division title. And, perhaps more important, they believe the move will improve Pettis' hitting.

Armas, who was in uniform for Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Baltimore at Anaheim Stadium, took batting practice but did not play.

Pettis' strikeout average is an abysmal .326. Pettis had struck out 115 times in 353 at-bats. He is hitting only .204 and has just 14 runs batted in, far off his pace of last season when he hit .258 with 58 RBIs and won his second straight Gold Glove.

Pettis was 5 for his last 54 at-bats, an .093 average.

And so up comes Armas, 34, who was out of baseball for five months this winter after having been granted free agency by the Boston Red Sox last November.

Armas has had a history of leg injuries. In 1985 he had a torn left calf muscle and played in only 103 games with the Red Sox. In 1986, again bothered by leg ailments, he played in only 121 games.

He was signed July 10 by Edmonton and had a .250 batting average (27 for 108) in 29 games for the Trappers. Since July 31, he has hit .333 (15 for 45) and has 12 RBIs.

Is he what the Angels need to catch front-running Minnesota, which leads by 5 1/2 games over California?

Mike Port, the Angel general manager, thought so in July when Armas was signed.

"With a player of the caliber of Armas, you expect 20-30 home runs," Port said in mid-July. "We believe Tony can get back to those type credentials."

Angel Manager Gene Mauch put it this way: "When he's solid and strong, there's nobody he can't hit."

The Angels have not forgotten Armas' 1984 season when he led the league with 43 home runs and 123 RBIs.

For now, Mauch said the plan is to use Armas, who batted .264 for Boston last season, against left-handed pitching and in the outfield. "It's not necessarily limited to that, but that's the way we'll use him," Mauch said. "I thought his legs were gone. I saw him today shagging balls in the outfield, and his legs looked to me to be no concern."

That's not the way it was at the beginning of spring training. Armas became a free agent last November, and no one picked him up until the Angels called.

Now, he's just tickled to be in Anaheim with a chance to help the Angels.

"I waited for a long time," Armas said. "I had patience. I was working hard (to get in shape in the winter) because I had no job. It was hard to sit home and do nothing so I worked out."

And he waited for phone calls.

"I started real slow," Armas said. "I was out of baseball for five months, and when pitchers throw 95-m.p.h. fastballs, anyone can start slow."

Pettis will report on Friday to Edmonton. Mauch said Pettis still figures in the Angels' plans after Sept. 1, when the rosters can be expanded to 40 players.

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