No one needs to tell Doug Rader that the Angels need all the pitchers they can get. He has seen the staff’s 5.00 earned-run average. He knows, he knows.
And to Rader, 10 pitchers on opening day may not be enough. The Angel manager said Saturday that he would consider starting the season with 11, which is one way of defusing any potential Dan Petry-Jim Abbott controversy.
“Eleven pitchers is definitely a possibility,” Rader said. “If it comes down to keeping an extra pitcher or an extra hitter, I don’t know how much that last player on the bench can help you.
“If it comes down to Jim Abbott or Junior Noboa, who’s going to help you win more?”
Noboa, the 24th man on Cookie Rojas’ roster last May and June, helped about as much as your average bat boy. Noboa had only 16 at-bats with the Angels, managing one hit and an .063 batting average.
Rader believes Abbott can help a great deal, especially if Petry is not pitching to full strength by this time next week. Slowed by an early-camp shoulder injury, Petry is still trying to pitch himself into shape and has yet to complete five innings in any of his three exhibition outings.
If Petry isn’t 100% by opening day, Abbott could replace him in the rotation while Petry builds arm strength pitching out of the bullpen.
Either way, Rader will be able to extend spring training, so to speak--keeping an eye on both pitchers’ progress while leaving his options open.
“We still have nine days to go,” Angel Vice President Mike Port said. “We’re trying to maintain an open mind. We’ve kicked (the idea of keeping 11 pitchers) around. It’s one option. As we break our roster down, the health situation will dictate if we go that way.”
Keeping 11 pitchers along with nine regular position players would leave openings for only four reserves. Backup catcher Bill Schroeder and outfielder Tony Armas are guaranteed spots, and Glenn Hoffman figures to win the utility infielder job. That would leave Rader with one wild card, which he could give to a left-handed pinch-hitter (Jim Eppard) or a second second baseman (the loser of the Johnny Ray-Mark McLemore duel) or a fifth outfielder (Dante Bichette).
Those four reserves would be sufficient, Rader said, at least at the outset of the regular season.
Thus, Abbott is closer to making a major league roster than anyone would have suspected a month ago. He is signed to a contract with double-A Midland, Tex., but he may never throw a pitch there.
As Port put it: “He stands a very, very solid chance of making the quantum leap from college and Olympic participation to the big league level.”
He could get there in the role of the 11th man.
A rare March rainstorm forced the cancellation of Saturday’s exhibition game between the Angels and the Oakland Athletics, prompting a quick assembly of a patchwork grounds crew.
And who was that getting down in the mud to help roll a canvas tarpaulin over the soggy infield?
None other than Mike Port.
“When you spend time as general manager in Key West and Lodi, that’s a basic operating procedure,” said Port, drying off in his office outside Angels Stadium. “Dealing with inclement weather is all part of it. You’ve got to know which end of the tarp is up.”
“When you operate in the minor leagues, you do that,” he said. “Not that much has changed. You’ve still got 90 feet between each base--and you’ve still got to perform on a dry field.
“This, today, you could call a refresher course in Club Operations and Management 1A.”
The Angels were leading the A’s, 6-0, with two outs in the bottom of the second inning when the umpires called the game. That was fine with Doug Rader, who had already begun pulling his regulars from the game as a precaution--replacing Johnny Ray with Dave Concepcion at second base, pinch-running for Devon White with Mike Ramsey. “A lot of bad things can happen between now and five innings,” Rader said. “We’ve been busting our butts for five weeks, and to leave it all here would be a sacrilege. I had to ask the umpires, ‘What are we trying to accomplish here?’ ” Ray, nursing a sore hamstring, was hit in the foot by a first-inning pitch, which prompted his quick removal from the game. “Why take a chance of him playing on that infield with a bad hamstring, plus a (bruised) toe?” Rader said. “It was in his best interests to get him out of the game.”
The first inning was a wild one, courtesy the nerves of Oakland’s rookie starting pitcher, Scott Chiamparino. Chiamparino gave up five runs on three hits in the bottom of the first as he hit Ray with a pitch, walked Chili Davis and threw two wild pitches. Another run scored on another Chiamparino pitch that was ruled a passed ball. By the bottom of the second inning, Oakland had a new pitcher, Bill Dawley. . . . Angel starter Mike Witt pitched two scoreless innings, but Rader had been hoping for six or seven. “That was the only down side to the rainout,” Rader said. “I’d have liked Witter to get in more work, but it’s too late to rearrange the rotation. We’ll have to have him throw extra on the sidelines before his next start.”