Minor League Notebook : After His Philadelphia Story, DeAngelis Seeks Happy Ending
Steve DeAngelis has spent a rather remarkable summer--packing and unpacking.
Between being released by the Philadelphia Phillies in April and reaching the Angels’ triple-A team in Edmonton this month, DeAngelis has made stops in Quad City and Midland, Tex., breathing new life into his career along the way.
“I’ve moved so often that I never unpack everything,” said DeAngelis, who played at Saddleback College. “That’s OK; maybe I can do all four steps in one year.”
DeAngelis is only one rung away on the ladder. He’s already played on the Class-A and double-A levels and is currently playing for the Edmonton Trappers.
“I can play outfield or designated hitter and the Angels have some older players in both spots,” he said. “I’ll just have to wait and see.”
Yes, life’s not bad for a guy the Phillies discarded during spring training.
“I’ve got a fresh start with an organization that is giving me a chance,” DeAngelis said. “I knew my career wasn’t over.”
DeAngelis, 25, appeared to be going places with the Phillies. He was named the team’s minor league player of the month three times during his four years in the organization, yet DeAngelis left believing the Phillies never gave him a chance.
After graduating from Saddleback College in 1984, where he had 28 home runs and 114 runs batted in in two seasons, DeAngelis signed a letter of intent with Oklahoma State. However, he never played a regular-season game for the Cowboys and spent only one semester at the school.
The Phillies had drafted DeAngelis the previous June and signed him in January. He went to Clearwater, Fla., a Class-A team, and led the Florida State League with 16 home runs.
DeAngelis started the next season in Reading, Pa., a double-A team. But after hitting .352 with eight home runs, he was promoted to triple A with Portland, Ore.
He hit .251, but had 14 home runs and 63 RBIs. The future looked bright.
“I thought I really had a chance with the Phillies,” DeAngelis said. “I was born in Philadelphia and I was Italian-American. They needed a left-handed power hitter and I was doing my best to be a left-handed power hitter.”
However, the bottom fell out the next year. The Phillies changed triple-A teams and DeAngelis found himself in Maine.
“It was cold there,” DeAngelis said. “I’d never played in weather that cold. It was freezing all the time.”
He hit only .156 through the first month and was shipped back to Reading.
The Phillies appeared to lose a little interest in him after that. He hit .315 with 18 home runs and 84 RBIs at Reading during the remainder of the 1987 season, but he wasn’t promoted the next year.
DeAngelis spent the entire 1988 season with Reading, where his career appeared to stall. He hit .263, but his power numbers dropped off. He had only eight home runs and 58 RBIs.
“The Phillies were playing little games with me,” DeAngelis said. “I put up good numbers, but they didn’t want to give me another chance and move me up.”
The next spring, DeAngelis was told he would play for Reading again.
“I went into the (Phillies’) office and said, ‘You think you’re sending me down; well I ain’t going down,’ ” DeAngelis said.
And he didn’t. Instead, DeAngelis got released.
“Best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.
DeAngelis spent the next week at home in Sewell, N.J. He entertained a couple of offers, but nothing really interested him.
Then, the Angels came calling.
“I felt good about right away,” he said. “I’ve always liked the Angels and their offer was good.”
What the Angels offered, according to DeAngelis, was a spot on the triple-A level as soon as an opening occurred.
So, with a smile on his face, DeAngelis went off to Class A. He hit .305, with five home runs and 18 doubles and 27 RBIs during his five weeks in Quad City.
DeAngelis then was promoted to Midland, where he spent another five weeks wearing out opposing pitchers. He had seven hits in his first 12 at-bats, including three doubles and four RBIS.
By the time the Angels moved him to Edmonton, DeAngelis was hitting .307 with three home runs, 10 doubles and 27 RBIs. DeAngelis, however, hasn’t been quite as big a hit on the triple-A level. He is hitting only .211 with one home run and five RBIs.
Former Chapman College pitcher Dave Cantrell had a horrendous start this season.
Cantrell, 23, lost his first 11 decisions for Salinas, Calif., a Class-A team for the San Francisco Giants. During the losing streak, Salinas was shut out three times.
“My record doesn’t indicate how well I’ve pitched,” said Cantrell, who played for Chapman in 1988. “I’ve had a lot of bad breaks.”
However, with the season drawing to a close, Cantrell has finally found a bit of luck. Namely, Honen Chikada.
Chikada, one of eight Japanese players on Salinas’ roster, has become a good-luck charm of sorts for Cantrell.
Cantrell claims he is not superstitious. Sure, he puts his left sock on first every time he pitches, but that’s a habit that dates to when he pitched for Beverly Hills High School.
A few weeks ago, Cantrell played catch with Chikada before a start. Cantrell pitched well that night but did not get a decision.
Before his next start, he again sought out Chikada to play catch. That night, Cantrell pitched a three-hitter for six innings in a 5-0 victory over Reno. His first victory.
Cantrell hasn’t let a game go by without playing catch with Chikada.
“We just play catch and I talk to him,” Cantrell said. “He doesn’t speak too much English, but he understands a lot.”
Cantrell is 2-1 with two no-decisions since hooking up with Chikada.
“I finally told him, through an translator, he was my good-luck charm,” Cantrell said. “He just looked at me and said, ‘Good.’ ”
Actually, Cantrell’s improvement may be due more to a strategy developed by Salinas Manager Tim Ireland.
“When you’re 0-11, you can’t attribute everything to bad luck,” Ireland said. “Dave has had some control problems, which can be a pitcher’s worst enemy.”
And most of Cantrell’s problems have seemed to come in the first inning.
So, before facing Reno, Cantrell met with Ireland. The two mapped out what pitches Cantrell would throw during the first inning.
“We wanted to limit the degree of struggle for Dave early in the games,” Ireland said. “We had him throw mostly fastballs and it seemed to work.”
Cantrell followed his victory over Reno with another one against Visalia. This time, he went the distance in a 10-0 victory.
“We’re starting to score some runs for Dave,” Ireland said. “That always helps a pitcher.”
For the last two years, Kevin Shaw has been losing velocity on his fastball.
Officials at Baseball City, Fla., a Class-A team for the Kansas City Royals, were baffled and decided he needed some rest. But Shaw was convinced he had a bone spur in his pitching elbow.
“I knew it had to be a bone spur,” said Shaw, a 1987 graduate of Katella High School. “But they took two X-rays and nothing showed up.”
And the fact that Shaw was 3-1 with a 2.52 earned-run average didn’t support his case.
Yet Shaw’s fastball, which was regularly clocked at 92 m.p.h. before this season, had been losing speed. He hadn’t been clocked higher than 87 m.p.h. this season.
Shaw also was feeling some discomfort in his right elbow.
“I was checked twice and they couldn’t find a thing wrong,” Shaw said. “They decided I just needed some rest. I sat out a couple starts and when I came back, I was pitching without pain. But after two starts, it started to hurt again.”
Finally, the team sent him to be examined by specialist in Alabama. Shaw underwent exploratory arthroscopic surgery on July 27.
What the doctor found was a bone spur.
“I kept trying to tell them that it was a bone spur,” Shaw said. “They finally found it.”
Shaw is going through rehabilitation and expects to be pitching again by January.
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