Jim Abbott, the newest member of the Angels’ rotation, got his first start of the spring Wednesday and the rookie left-hander showed pretty much the same form he has all through training camp.
He was far from unhittable--the Padres scored two runs on six hits in the four innings he pitched--but he continued to impress with the quality of his pitches, most notably a fastball that registers in the low-90s, and a sharp-breaking slider.
After San Diego had beaten the Angels, 6-5, in front of 4,326 at Angels Stadium, Manager Doug Rader made it official: Abbott will be the No. 5 starter, making his debut Saturday, April 8, at Anaheim Stadium against the Seattle Mariners.
Abbott, who will pitch one more tuneup Sunday in an exhibition against Edmonton at Anaheim, becomes the 15th player since the amateur draft began in 1965 to go directly to the majors. Texas’ Pete Incaviglia (1985) was the last player to make the jump.
“It’s real exciting, a real thrill,” Abbott said. “This is something I never thought would happen so fast. There were hints and things, but you never want to think about it until it’s official.”
Right-hander Dan Petry, who has been bothered by a sore shoulder, will start the season in long relief.
“Abbott has three things going for him,” Rader said, “great maturity, tremendous talent and (pitching coach) Marcel Lachemann behind him.”
Rader said he had already decided Abbott would be the fifth starter before the first pitch Wednesday, but, if the game was any sort of a barometer on the battle for the No. 5 spot, Abbott may have won by default. His four-inning stint was only mediocre, but Petry, who followed Abbott to the mound, allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings and again seemed to tire quickly.
Abbott met with reporters after he pitched--but before Rader’s postgame announcement about his status--and admitted for the first time that he would have been disappointed to start the season in the minors.
“I’d be disappointed by not making it, but I wouldn’t be disappointed with the spring I’ve had,” he said. “I think I’ve battled myself into a position to make this team. I just hope nobody thinks I got an unfair shake because I think I’ve earned a spot.”
Abbott gave up a run in the first when Luis Salazar slammed a one-out double off the wall in left and then scored on a pair of wild pitches, both breaking balls in the dirt.
But he also struck out Tony Gwynn on a wicked slider in the inning. It was the first time Gwynn has struck out this spring in 63 at-bats.
“I used to watch guys like that on TV and wonder if I had the stuff to get them out,” Abbott said. “A strikeout is even a bigger plus, but you can’t make a lot out of one out. Still, things like that are confidence-builders.”
The Palm Springs portion of Camp Tranquility ended Wednesday. Manager Doug Rader has played it so low-key that even those who have been sent down or released have taken the news calmly and left under agreeable terms. And the man who was once the scourge of the media has gone so far as to pair up a writer and an angry player, defend the reporter, and then tell both parties to be buddies. The question, of course, is how Rader will handle losing regular-season games. Reliever Greg Minton thinks the Angels’ new manager may resort to a No-More-Mr.-Nice-Guy approach when the situation calls for it. “I played against Doug Rader and you couldn’t find a more nose-in-the-dirt guy who was ready to fight,” Minton said. “He’s been really low-key so far, but I think that will change after we lose a game or two. Nobody ever got on anyone’s case last year, and I think there are times when you need that.” . . . The Angels will play triple-A affiliate Edmonton in an exhibition game at Anaheim Stadium Sunday. All tickets are $1 with first-come, first-served festival-type seating.