A is for Abbott, and double A is where he’ll probably begin the 1989 baseball season, but with his outing against the Oakland Athletics Tuesday, Jim Abbott might have dislodged the Angels from any foregone conclusions this spring.
In his second appearance of the spring, and his first in a varsity game, Abbott tangled with the A’s for two innings, struck out Jose Canseco with runners on second and third, surrendered a tainted run and wound up the winning pitcher in the Angels’ 9-4 victory over Oakland.
Had it not been for Abbott’s own bobble of a comeback grounder, which foiled a potential inning-ending double play, the rookie pitcher might have emerged unscathed in his 55-pitch stint against the defending American League champions.
As it was, Abbott pitched his way out of two jams, struck out a pair of Joses--Canseco and rookie outfielder Felix Jose--and earned a raised eyebrow or two from Angel Manager Doug Rader.
“When you see someone with his amount of talent, and you admire the person on top of that, it’s tough to stay objective,” Rader said.
“That’s the Catch-22 of the thing. If you’re to be perfectly objective about Jim Abbott, then he’s certainly one of the 10 best pitchers in our organization. And if he’s one of the 10 best we have, how can he not make our pitching staff?”
Rader already knows the answer to that, or at least the line the Angels have recited since making Abbott their No. 1 draft choice last year. They do not want to rush him. They want him to break in gradually, to wet his feet in the minor leagues first.
He is signed to a double-A contract with Midland, Tex., and began spring training ticketed there. But Tuesday, Rader denied that such plans were etched in stone.
“Those were our initial plans,” Rader said. “But by no means are they inflexible.”
Abbott’s strikeout of Canseco was the attention grabber. Having already walked two batters in the fourth inning, Abbott was given the OK by Rader to pitch to the A’s slugger with first base open. In Rader’s eyes, the confrontation was to be Abbott’s mettle detector.
Abbott responded by striking out Canseco on five pitches, blowing a hard slider past him for the third strike, ending the inning and the threat.