Abbott Was Event; Now He’s a Pitcher


When Jim Abbott made his Angel debut in a B game here a year ago, he was deluged by reporters eager to chronicle the improbable story of the kid who won an Olympic gold medal and was trying to make the major leagues despite having been born without a right hand.

He received a standing ovation and was obliged to hold a news conference to accommodate the curious, a chore he repeated countless times during his rookie season.

When Abbott made his 1990 debut Tuesday, he was greeted with polite applause from the crowd of 2,433 at Desert Sun Stadium. He had no cameras to fend off and few interviews to grant. But if the fuss has subsided, that’s fine with him, because now he can concentrate on learning more about the craft he practiced so impressively in his 12-12 rookie season.


“I said last year I’d like to get the attention out of the way,” the 22-year-old Michigan native said. “I just want to work hard and be prepared and hopefully I can make a nice career, quietly. I know I’ll always get attention. That’s part of it. When attention comes, I’ll accept it when it’s due and downplay it when it’s not.”

He accepted his rocky first exhibition outing Tuesday with equanimity. Abbott went two innings, giving up three walks and a two-run home run to San Diego’s Mike Pagliarulo over the 385-foot sign in right-center. Abbott didn’t figure in the decision, an 8-6 victory by the Angels that evened their exhibition record at 1-1.

“I wasn’t especially sharp, but my arm felt good and live,” Abbott said. “All I was trying to do was get into my rhythm. I didn’t have it today, but this was a good starting point. The first time out is always a little weird. You try to be too perfect after a week of practice and obviously you’re not going to have the same result as if you had more time behind you. You have to play it smart and reserved, and take that attitude into the season.”

He also hopes to take with him into the season a changeup, which would complement his standbys of last season, the explosive fastball, which hitters found difficult to pick up, and the darting slider.

“I didn’t throw any changes today,” he said. “I would have liked to, but I was behind in the count too much. I’ll probably try it next time out. All the other pitches are coming along.”

Catcher Lance Parrish expects Abbott to master the changeup as easily as Abbott mastered the other challenges he faced last season.


“I was impressed with him from the first, just because of what he had to deal with,” Parrish said. “It went like that the whole season, although it tapered off toward the end. You take a guy who comes right out of college and makes the major leagues, that’s a tremendous adjustment, with all the pressure and expectations. Then you put him in a situation where he’s constantly sought out by the media.

“He had to give so much of himself. Most of us would have gone crazy, but he always made himself available. I never saw him lose his temper. He was very gracious. The bottom line is that he was still able to go about his business and do his job as a pitcher.

“He had the ability to make the adjustment from college to . . . major league hitters in a short time and be effective with his knowledge of hitters and his ability to set people up. He was amazing. He had a chance to win more games than he did. We just didn’t play that well for him. I expect it’s possible he’ll do even better this season.”

Abbott expects more from himself this season than last, and his goals include 15 victories and more success against left-handed hitters. Lefties hit .325 against him, compared with the .263 hit by right-handed hitters. “I think, as a staff, we can win 75 games and I want to hold up my end,” Abbott said. “I’d like to win more than 15, but that’s something to shoot for. . . . Doing better against lefties is something I’m working on, but I don’t see that many lefties. I just need to throw some different pitches I don’t throw very often to right-handers and work on that.”

He can work on it, he said, with an attitude that is untainted by his disappointment over having the Angels renew his contract for $185,000. Whether that might persuade him some day to become a free agent is something he won’t contemplate now.

“It’s not something that I want to carry along with me,” he said. “It’s negative space that I try to put aside.

“I’m excited about this season. This is a good team and we have a good chance to do well this year. I really enjoy the camaraderie here and I’d hate to carry something over from the off-season. If I’m fortunate to have a career that lasts that long, I’ll cross that bridge (free agency) when I come to it.

“Right now, I’m just worried about this season. Some guys have had a lot more promising starts than I have and have had their career go astray. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I’m just going to keep working because I don’t want that to happen to me.”

Angel Notes

Starter Kirk McCaskill worked three solid innings Tuesday and left with a 2-1 lead. He allowed one run and three hits, walked one and struck out two. McCaskill said he doesn’t feel pressure to succeed because of the trade rumors that mention his name. “It affected me until the winter meetings and a little after,” he said. “But eventually I realized it’s worthless to try and speculate. Right now I’m just concentrating on getting ready and looking forward to pitching with the Angels.”

Catcher Lance Parrish sat out the game because of a pulled muscle in his upper back. John Orton replaced Parrish in the regular game and contributed a two-run home run to center in the fifth inning. Parrish’s status is day to day. Two other starters are out with injuries--shortstop Dick Schofield (pulled hamstring) and center fielder Devon White (strained quadriceps). Outfielder Dan Grunhard, taking over for White in the starting lineup, hit the game-winning, three-run homer in the seventh inning.

In the seven-inning preliminary game Tuesday, the Angel B team defeated the Padre B team, 1-0. Brian Downing’s fifth-inning single scored Kent Anderson. . . . Pitcher Mike Erb suffered a bruised left shin when he was struck on the leg by a line drive hit by Garry Templeton in the B game. X-rays showed no breaks. Facing two games with his reduced roster, Manager Doug Rader rotated Anderson, Donnie Hill and Mark McLemore at second base, shortstop and third base in the B game.

Bert Blyleven, Scott Bailes, Mike Smithson, Mark Clear and Mark Eichhorn are scheduled to pitch for the Angels today. Set to work Thursday are Chuck Finley, Greg Minton, Rich Monteleone, Bob McClure and Bryan Harvey.