The handwriting would seem to be on the wall, or at least on the lineup card that Angel Manager Doug Rader posts daily in the dugout.
When Johnny Ray bats second, sandwiched between Brian Downing and Devon White, the top of the Angel batting order looks, well, almost imposing. Rader has already assigned the No. 1 and No. 3 slots to Downing and White--and Ray, with his high-contact, high-average stroke, would appear to be the ideal No. 2 man.
But to bat second, Ray will also have to play second. And that would mean no room for Mark McLemore, the Angels’ opening-day second baseman in both the 1987 and 1988 seasons.
And if Ray starts ahead of McLemore, that would mean McLemore, most likely, would start the 1989 season in Edmonton.
“In Mac’s case, I think it’d be kind of silly (to sit him on the Angel bench while Ray plays),” Rader said. “It may be unfair, because we’re talking about two players with major league ability, but I think it’d be self-defeating for Mac not to play.
“He needs to play every day, whether it’s here or Edmonton. The bottom line is that Mac’s got to play, because he’s going to be a very fine player.”
And that bottom line leads to another for McLemore: beat out Ray or bust.
Triple A, if he had his way, would be out of the question.
“We all know what my preference is,” McLemore said. “But I’ll deal with that if that happens.”
Would McLemore request a trade if he learned in 10 days that he was Edmonton-bound?
“Again, we’ll deal with that when it happens-- if it happens,” he said.
McLemore started Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, a 4-3 Angel victory. He batted in the No. 9 position, had two hits, drove in a run and committed an error.
The two hits raised his batting average to .350--better than decent, much better than his .236 career average, but still overshadowed by Ray’s .417 mark.
“His iron’s still in the fire,” Rader said of McLemore. “His iron’s never been out of it. Each person has been competing well. We’re at a point where both guys are ready to start the season.”
But when the season does start, only one will play.
McLemore, who batted barely .200 in the Arizona phase of the Angels’ camp, knows he is the underdog. He knows he’s now trying to make up for lost time, before he runs out of time.
“A couple weeks ago, I was thinking about too many things, thinking about what my chances were and what I needed to do,” he said. “When I got here (Palm Springs), I decided to not worry about any of that.
“Now, I’m not trying to impress anybody. I’m just trying to play hard.
“I’m not worrying about the decision that has to be made. What I’m doing on the field, I want to continue. Right now, that’s all I can control.”
And in the other infield competition, Glenn Hoffman appears to be edging in front of Dave Concepcion, 40, in their bid for the Angels’ utility job. Hoffman, 30, is batting .333 and has been steady afield. Concepcion, meanwhile, is hitting .136 and has looked sluggish defensively, failing to leap high enough to grab a catchable line drive in Wednesday’s ninth inning.
Wally Joyner was back in the starting lineup, with no apparent complication to his sprained ankle. He played all nine innings and went 1 for 4 with a run batted in. . . . The Angels announced they had optioned pitchers Jack Lazorko, Urbano Lugo and Vinicio Cedeno to Edmonton. No surprise there, with all three pitchers already working out at the Angels’ minor league camp at Mesa, Ariz.