The walls keep tumbling down every time Angel rookie Jim Abbott steps to the pitcher’s mound:
Three scoreless innings in a B game against the San Diego Padres; a strikeout of Jose Canseco and a winning decision against the Oakland Athletics, and now, three more impressive innings and another winning decision during the Angels’ 9-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday.
If he keeps this up much longer, they’re going to run out of reasons for keeping Abbott off the Angels’ 24-man roster.
“He’s definitely got the ability,” said Lance Parrish after catching the young left-hander for the second time. “There are probably a lot of pitchers in the major leagues today who don’t have his ability.
“Just by watching him today, how he handles himself, he seems more relaxed, he seems to know what he wants to do.
“That, to me, shows he’s starting to feel confident out there.”
Replacing Angel starter Mike Witt in the fifth inning, Abbott retired the first six batters he faced, including consecutive strikeouts of Greg Brock and Glenn Braggs.
He gave two hits in his final inning, which Milwaukee parlayed into two runs, but neither ball was well struck. Joey Meyer’s leadoff single was a soft fly ball over second base, and Jim Adduci’s ensuing single never left the infield--a ground ball that Angel shortstop Dave Concepcion ran down but couldn’t make a play on.
A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, and ground-outs by Tim McIntosh and Eddie Diaz brought them home.
The two runs were earned, but they could hardly be considered hard-earned.
“A couple balls fell in, but I wasn’t totally unhappy,” Abbott said with a grin. “This was the best I’ve thrown so far. I felt like I had good rhythm out there, I wasn’t nervous, I felt more comfortable with my teammates around me.
“The other day against Oakland, I went out there and hurried too much.
“Joe Coleman (Angel bullpen coach) told me to slow down and take my time today, and the advice really paid off.”
Abbott agreed with Parrish’s assessment, that he was starting to gain confidence during his trial run against big league hitting. And, with Abbott, confidence doesn’t come easily.
“I’ve never been a real confident pitcher,” he admitted. “I’m kind of a nervous pitcher. In between starts, all I think about is what I can improve on.
“But now my confidence is starting to rise to where I think I can compete with these guys.”
Does he think he’ll still be competing with them come April?
“Predicting something like that is hard to do,” said Abbott, who has yet to pitch a day in the minor leagues. “But I don’t think anybody comes to camp thinking, ‘I have no chance.’ Everybody hopes to make it.
“I’m being realistic about it. So far in spring training, I think I’ve improved to where this will serve as a good springboard into the season, wherever I end up.”
Originally, that destination appeared to be Midland, Tex., the Angels’ double-A affiliate. Abbott is signed to a Midland contract.
But triple-A Edmonton--and even the Big-A on Opening Day--now loom as possibilities, at least in the mind of Angel Manager Doug Rader. Rader has indicated he wants to keep Abbott in camp through the Freeway Series, which would take Abbott to the club’s final roster cut.
“My wishes are that we bring him to Palm Springs,” said Rader, referring to where the Angels spend the last two weeks of spring training. “The way our club is set up, I can’t see why we wouldn’t.”
A good story is becoming better by the pitch and Abbott has become something of a Cactus League sensation. Whether it’s his Olympic gold medal or the physical handicap of being born without a right hand, fans are drawn to him. He has pitched to sellout crowds both at Phoenix and Chandler, being greeted by standing ovations both times.
“I think people root for the underdog,” Abbott said, “and I guess they think I’m some sort of underdog. I don’t think it’s going to last too long, but I hope to keep sneaking up on people.”
Saturday, the longshot got a little bit shorter.
A hamstring injury kept Johnny Ray out of the lineup for a week, but it apparently hasn’t hampered his hitting. Ray went three for five with two runs batted in Saturday, giving him four hits in his first eight spring at-bats. Mark McLemore, Ray’s competition for the starting second base job, is five for 23 (.217) this spring. . . . After 10 games, two Angel regulars are batting .400. Lance Parrish is at .429 after doubling twice in five at-bats against Milwaukee. Devon White (.407) had two hits and three RBIs in five at-bats against the Brewers. . . . Dante Bichette extended his hitting streak to six games with a fifth-inning single. He also stole two bases.