Rader Still Smiling Even Without Yount

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Whether out of superstition or experience, Doug Rader hasn't permitted himself the luxury of daydreaming about adding American League most valuable player Robin Yount to a team that already includes Mark Langston.

"Maybe I'm not that imaginative to let my imagination run wild," the Angel manager said. "I've certainly had some wonderful thoughts."

The Angels' thoughts have changed as the winter baseball meetings have progressed. When Yount postponed his decision on departing Milwaukee, it prevented the Angels from addressing their other needs. But Rader said Tuesday he doesn't believe the club will suffer because it didn't get Joe Carter from Cleveland because Carter might not have been the ideal solution to the Angels' problems.

"Our priorities were set in a way that some things hinged upon others taking place," Rader said. "It was a case of 'If A and B were accomplished, C is feasible.' In terms of opportunity slipping away, that's not the case. A and B leading to C is still debatable as far as being the right way to go.

"In acquiring Joe Carter, that would create a void elsewhere, without being specific. You can't do that without knowing the availability of somebody elsewhere. We didn't feel we were in a position to weaken ourselves elsewhere and not have Robin Yount to fill those holes."

The Angels are said to have offered center fielder Devon White and second baseman Johnny Ray to Cleveland for Carter. Instead, Carter's rights were traded to the San Diego Padres.

General Manager Mike Port said he has "a lot of things up in the air."

"We're juggling six baseballs and when they come down, hopefully we'll catch one or two or three of them on the way down and we'll be better for it," Port said. "I'd like to think we will not drop all eight." Langston's signing leaves Rader juggling six starting pitchers next season, unless one is traded in the interim. It's a happy problem for Rader.

"I'm very happy to have Mr. Langston. Not only is he a force unto himself, whenever something like that takes place with your pitching staff, it deepens it. That's when you become very good," Rader said.

"Look at Oakland: They have seven or eight guys who could start and that doesn't even count (Dennis) Eckersley. When you have that much flexibility, that's great. . . . The thing about a little extra depth is that when you go into a series, you like to see how many runs you can expect to score.

"Look at Kansas City, with (Bret) Saberhagen and (Charlie) Leibrandt, that kind of depth. Hopefully, it's going to be very difficult to score runs (against the Angels). That's good."

But they might have difficulty in scoring runs themselves. That prospect, though, is not enough to convince Rader to sacrifice pitching and defense for the sake of offense.

"The business at hand is to make sure the pitching at hand has the proper support," Rader said. "If you borrow from Peter to pay Paul, that doesn't help. We've got to make sure we not only can pitch it, we can catch it. If we improve our offense, so be it. It's important to improve your strengths."

As strong as Langston has made the Angels' pitching staff, Rader didn't celebrate when he heard about the $16-million man's signing. His restraint may be an effort to avoid increasing the pressure sure to rest on Langston, the team and himself.

"I'm very grateful the organization is able to do something like this, but the fact that we have him doesn't guarantee success," Rader said. "If we do something special with Mark Langston on the ballclub, that would be the appropriate time to jump up and down. Now is not the time.

"We'd better prepare ourselves for a very difficult pennant race. It's going to take a very good ballclub to win it and there's not going to be any easy stops. Everybody in our division understands it's going to take 100 wins to win it."

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