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Spring Takes an Ominous Twist for Angels, Joyner

Times Staff Writer

Ah, Arizona in the spring. Fun. Sun. A great place for an early-evening family picnic and maybe a little basketball.

Unless you are Wally Joyner.

Joyner told the Angel training staff he was on “a family outing” Tuesday afternoon and decided to shoot some hoops. Whoops. Bad decision.

Joyner came down from a shot, on the side of his left foot, and sprained his ankle. Trainer Ned Bergert, who treated Joyner Wednesday morning, said the first baseman probably will be out of action for at least 10 days.

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Joyner returned home to Yorba Linda before Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Cubs. He was scheduled to see Dr. Jules Rasinski Wednesday evening.

“He was just shooting some baskets, it wasn’t like he was scrimmaging the Phoenix Suns or anything,” Manager Doug Rader said. “It wasn’t even a high-powered pickup game. He was just shooting and rolled over it. You could do the same thing getting out of your car.”

General Manager Mike Port, however, was considerably less charitable in his evaluation of the situation. He rolled his eyes when it was suggested that Joyner was merely shooting around.

“If you’re looking for something supportive in nature, you won’t find it forthcoming from me,” Port said. “I’m not amused. I’m not thrilled. I’m not happy.

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“My feeling is that once the bell goes off and people put on that uniform, there are certain obligations to ownership, teammates and fans. I find it difficult to be sympathetic to anyone who would run any shred of risk to that obligation.

“When the fans come to Palm Springs and ask why Wally can’t play, I’m not sure I’ll have a good answer.”

Joyner’s contract forbids participation in organized competition. Although Joyner’s decision to play may qualify as ill-advised, it probably wasn’t a breach of that contract. Port, however, vividly remembers that pitcher Dan Petry missed almost half of last season with a similar injury, and said it was not a dead issue.

He said: “I’m going to take some time to sort it out and then respond in a way that is best and proper for the club.”

Rader, who has been doing his best to live up to his new Mr. Relaxed image, did say that there was a lesson to be learned from this.

“Guys need to realize there’s a fine line between what you can and can’t do,” he said. “You owe it to the team to make sure you don’t get yourself in that predicament.

“But I think he’ll still have plenty of time to get ready. It’s a little premature to get excited about how long he’ll be out.”

Dodger scout Mel Didier was on hand at Ho Ho Kam Park Wednesday and he’s obviously impressed with Jim Abbott.

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“Most college players who think they throw a slider really throw a slurve (a pitch that falls in between a slider and a curve),” Didier said. “You can pick it up as soon as it leaves their hand and it’s a big-breaking pitch. About 60% of the big leaguers who say they have a slider, throw a slurve, too.

“But Abbott throws a real slider. It breaks just about this much,” he said, holding his fingers about five inches apart. “And it breaks at the last moment, when the batter’s already started his swing and can’t do anything about it. He’s got a great one, too, like J.R. Richard, Ron Guidry and Terry Forster.”

Abbott pitched two innings Wednesday and allowed one run and three hits during the Angels’ 4-0 loss to Chicago, but the Cubs didn’t exactly pound him around the park.

With one out in the sixth, Lloyd McClendon hit a flare to center that dropped between left fielder Chili Davis and center fielder Dante Bichette, both of whom appeared to have chances to catch it. Curtis Wilkerson followed with a blooper to center that glanced off second baseman Mark McLemore’s glove and was ruled a hit.

Dwight Smith poked a hit-and-run ground ball single to left through the spot vacated by Glenn Hoffman, who was breaking to cover second, and McClendon scored.

“The perfect plan was to start Abbott in double-A and let him win a few games, then advance him to triple-A and then take it from there,” Port said. “But Jim Abbott has spent his whole lifetime spoiling people’s perfect plans.

“Right now, our feeling is, you don’t rule out anything in Jim Abbott’s regard. Right now, I can’t tell you he will not make this team. That’s not to say he will, but you can’t rule it out.”

Angel Notes

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The Angels have today off to travel to Palm Springs, where workouts will resume Friday morning. The Angels play host to Seattle Friday at 1 p.m. at Angels Stadium. . . . The Mac’s Hat Department: Angel Manager Doug Rader said Wednesday that he had good reason to burn former Angel Manager John McNamara’s straw hat during Tuesday’s B game against the San Diego Padres. “There was too much glare coming off that loud hatband and it was disturbing our players,” Rader deadpanned. “So I had to get rid of it.”

Darrell Miller is the No. 3 catcher behind Lance Parrish and Bill Schroeder, but he can also play the outfield, which slightly increases his chances of making the 24-man opening-day roster. But Miller has been playing almost exclusively in B games. He has one hit in five at-bats in three A games this spring. “I’m not frustrated,” Miller said. “It’s probably just as well that I’ve been playing the B games because I didn’t find my stroke until the last couple of days. I think it was buried in a shallow grave somewhere in the desert.”


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