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When the Angels Find Themselves in a Bind, Schu Comes to the Rescue

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Angels keep finding themselves in binds this season, because of this injury and that, one situation or another.

More than once, Rick Schu has been the man to help them out.

When the Angels needed an emergency pitcher last month because Kirk McCaskill had a tender elbow and Chuck Finley had twisted an ankle, they went to Schu.

Not to pitch, of course, but to make way for Mike Fetters, who was called up from triple-A Edmonton.

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“There were only a few guys they could ask to do it,” said Schu, a third baseman. “They figured I’d be the guy to do it for them.”

It didn’t matter to Schu that he could have refused the assignment to Edmonton because he has more than five years’ major league experience.

“I did it for the team,” said Schu, who was back in Anaheim in about a week. “We were in a bad situation and needed a pitcher.”

The latest favor has been one he has not only agreed to, but one he has relished. With Jack Howell out with a sprained left knee, he has started the past 11 games at third base.

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In the past eight days, he has thrived at the plate, hitting three homers, including a two-run shot in the Angels’ 8-3 victory Saturday. He also homered Friday night. Saturday night’s homer came off Ranger starter Mike Jeffcoat, who had also given up a homer to Schu last Saturday.

“I hit pretty much the same pitch,” Schu said. “A ball, up in the zone. I think it was a changeup.”

Being a regular--or at least a temporary regular--has given Schu a chance to feel good at the plate.

“It’s nice to get the at-bats. You can get in a groove,” he said.

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But he knows as well as anyone that with Howell’s activation Saturday, he will be out of the groove soon.

“I expect to be on the bench,” Schu said. “But (Manager Doug Rader) finds a way to get guys in.”

Rader is pleased with what Schu has done and won’t have any part of discussing the four errors Schu committed in the past week--including a critical one in a 1-0 loss to the Rangers Monday.

“He’s done a terrific job,” Rader said. “He’s driven in some runs, and that’s been important. Let’s talk about what a good job he’s doing for us. Those things (errors) happen. The fact of the matter is, he’s contributed greatly to our success. We’ve all been very appreciative.”

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Schu is not a guy who has longstanding ties to the Angels, just a 28-year-old player they signed in February. But after several seasons in Philadelphia, where he was once slated to replace Mike Schmidt, and after stints in Baltimore and Detroit last season, he was ready to go somewhere else and stay.

“I just want to win,” Schu said. “I played the last couple of years for some teams that didn’t win.”

It didn’t hurt that his chance came in California.

“I’ve played my whole career on the East Coast,” said Schu, who played at Sacramento City College. “I’m from California. It’s nice being here.”

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With Howell back, Schu expects things to change. Howell entered Saturday’s game in the ninth as a defensive replacement, already beginning Schu’s latest reshuffling.

“It’s been great just coming to the park, knowing you were in the lineup,” he said.

But that will change.

“I’ve done this before,” Schu said. “It used to be that Schmidt would go down for a couple of weeks every year, and be on the DL for 15 days.”

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And if experience proves the rule, as long as he’s with the Angels, some bind seems sure to come along.


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