Wally Joyner walked out of the Angel clubhouse Tuesday with a basketball in his hands, a sight that should have struck fear into the hearts and minds of his teammates.
Stop him, before he shoots again.
No need to worry, Wally assured all. The basketball was a practical joke, planted in Joyner’s locker by Cleveland Indians Joe Carter and Cory Snyder, who signed their names along with the inscription: “You Can Always Play For Our Team.”
Joyner said he was going to return the favor.
“My buddies,” he said with a grin. “This might be going back to the Indians--with something else on it. I told them to beware.”
Earlier in the day, Joyner had delivered the Indians a message of a different kind. Back in the lineup for the first time since last Tuesday’s fateful basketball injury, Joyner tested his ankle for seven innings against Cleveland and went 1 for 4, driving in two runs to help the Angels to a 7-6 victory.
Returning about a week earlier than team trainers had originally projected, Joyner drove in the Angels’ first run with a first-inning groundout and broke a 5-5 tie in the fifth inning with a run-scoring single to right field.
“It felt good,” Joyner said, referring to his tightly taped left ankle. “It felt different, but I took a little extra batting practice and after a while, it loosened up.”
Eventually, it also started to throb, which prompted Angel Manager Doug Rader to remove Joyner from the game as a precautionary measure.
“That was from (the ankle) being wrapped up and standing on it for six hours,” Joyner said. “I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to keep it wrapped like this the majority of the year.”
Joyner, batting .273 at the time of the injury, claimed to have found a silver lining under all the adhesive tape and liniment.
“I think it’s helped my stroke,” he said. “I sprained my left foot, my back foot, and it’s helped keep me back on my swing. With that ankle, I can’t jump or lunge at outside pitches.”
Rader said Joyner “looked fine” but still wanted to wait for today’s results, to see how the ankle responds the day after. “How it feels (tomorrow) will be a big indication,” Rader said.
“I’m going to watch it closely tonight,” he said. “The trainers say they’re 90% sure it’s going to swell up on me, so I want to keep on top of it.”
With that, Joyner spun on his left foot and left the locker room. He had new worlds to conquer . . . or, at least, a new prank to avenge.
Claudell Washington (sore right shoulder) also returned to the Angel lineup Tuesday--and finally brought his batting stroke with him. After a first-inning fly out extended his hitting slump to 0 for 17, Washington doubled in the fourth inning and singled in the sixth. That raised his spring batting average from .147 to .184. “He got a couple hits, made a good catch and finally showed some legs,” Manager Doug Rader said. “You like to see a smattering of something out there. You like to see something that shows he can still do it. It appears Claudell still can.” Good timing, too, Rader suggested, noting Dante Bichette’s emergence as a dark-horse outfield candidate. “With Dante playing as well as he is and showing he’s a viable candidate, it’s up to the other people to respond to the competition,” Rader said.
With Bryan Harvey, Greg Minton and Willie Fraser locked into three of the five bullpen spots, four men continue to compete for the last two openings--left-handers Bob McClure and Vance Lovelace, right-handers Stewart Cliburn and Rich Monteleone. Lovelace and Monteleone both worked Tuesday, with Lovelace pitching a scoreless inning and Monteleone getting the win (2 innings, 2 hits, 1 run). Rader liked what he saw from both. On Lovelace: “He’s finally showing he can get the ball around the plate. If he can just come close to the plate, he has enough stuff to get outs on balls outside the strike zone.” On Monteleone: “He has an off-speed pitch that can neutralize both right-handers and left-handers. He also seems durable and gets warm in a hurry, which makes him appealing as a long reliever.”