Angel Manager Doug Rader seemed to take last year's spring training lockout as a personal affront, fuming at the disruption of the schedule he had so carefully planned. With spring training restored to its normal length this year, Rader's humor has been restored, too.
"Thank God," Rader said of having twice the training time he had in 1990. "You can prepare to where you know that when you open the season, you're where you're supposed to be. Not being prepared kills me.
"We knew, coming out of spring training last year, that there was no way we'd be prepared. Then we really knew when Bob McClure, Dick Schofield and Jack Howell all started going down (with injuries)."
The Angels' pitchers and catchers, plus players who are recovering from injuries, reported Thursday and will go through their first workouts today at Gene Autry Park. The remaining players are due next Tuesday.
Among the first arrivals was first baseman Wally Joyner, who suffered a stress fracture in his right kneecap and played only 83 games last season. Also reporting were Schofield, who was limited to 99 games after pulling a hamstring in spring training; first baseman Greg Walker, who was signed to a triple-A contract; infielder Chris Cron, who hit .287 for the Angels' triple-A Edmonton club last season, and Kent Anderson, who finished last season with a hamstring pull.
Infielder Rick Schu, attempting to become the team's emergency catcher, was also expected to arrive, as was right-hander Matt Keough, 35, who agreed to a minor league contract Thursday. Keough, who left the major leagues to play in Japan in 1987, was 7-9 last season with a 5.00 earned-run average for the Hanshin Tigers.
Led by Chuck Finley, the Angels' starting pitching figures to be one of the club's strengths. Finley established himself among the American League's top left-handers last season with a career-high 18 victories, seven complete games and 236 innings pitched. His $2.5-million contract will make Finley rich, but Rader doesn't expect it to make his star pitcher complacent.
"Chuck is a good, good man, and I'm sure those things have very little bearing on what he does," Rader said. "He's very, very mature and he comes from very good stock."
Mark Langston ended his first Angel season with a 10-17 record and was jeered at Anaheim Stadium while he went 3-11 at home. The best that can be said is his transitional season is over--and he managed to win five of his last seven decisions. Jim Abbott was victimized by low run production and his own inconsistency, and his victory total slipped from 12 in 1989 to 10. However, at 23, he continues to progress and is projected to win 13 to 15 games.
Bone spurs and chips that bothered Kirk McCaskill last season were removed, and his velocity during winter workouts was better than it was last season. "He's so far ahead, we've backed off," pitching coach Marcel Lachemann said of the right-hander's rehabilitation program.
The biggest question concerns Bert Blyleven, who is attempting to rebound from an 8-7 season shortened by surgery on his right shoulder. Blyleven isn't at full strength, but he's unworried.
"My goal is to be ready for opening day, not for the first day of spring training," said Blyleven, who will turn 40 April 6. "It's coming along slow but sure."
If Blyleven isn't ready when the season starts, Joe Grahe or Scott Lewis could become the fifth starter. The two young right-handers pitched well as fill-in starters late last season, but Rader isn't giving Blyleven's spot away.
"Bert's hard to handicap," Rader said. "The winter of 1988-89, prior to the big year he had for us in '89 (when he was 17-5), he had troubles, and there was some concern at that point. I don't think it's appropriate to put too much emphasis on it right now."
Signed as free agents during the off-season were right-hander Jeff Robinson and left-hander Floyd Bannister. Robinson, a Santa Ana native, was 3-6 with a 3.54 ERA for the New York Yankees last season. He probably will replace middle reliever Willie Fraser, who was traded with Devon White to the Toronto Blue Jays for Junior Felix and Luis Sojo.
Bannister, 35, played in Japan for the Yakult Swallows last season. He won 16 games for the Chicago White Sox both in 1983 and 1987 and has a major league record of 133-142. The Angels plan to use him as a reliever, although he has been a starter throughout his major league career.
Bryan Harvey became the Angels' career save leader last season and signed a new contract for $1.04 million. It might look small next to Finley's deal or the $3.25 million Langston will earn in 1991, but Harvey isn't complaining.
While Harvey was struggling to overcome a stretch of wildness early last season, Mark Eichhorn filled the closer's role admirably. But opponents soon figured out his sidearm delivery, and he failed to record a save after June 19. If he's effective, he could be used as a setup man for Harvey.
McClure missed most of last season because of tendinitis in his left elbow, but he is expected to resume his role of facing a batter or two in key situations.
Lance Parrish will again do most of the catching, but the backup spot could be troublesome. Staying healthy in 1990 helped Parrish enjoy his best season since '85, as he hit .268 with 24 home runs and 70 runs batted in. He also threw out 55 of 117 base stealers, among the best percentages in the American League.
John Orton began last season with the Angels but was optioned to Edmonton on July 1 after hitting only .171. He hit .241 in 50 games with the Trappers. To win the backup job, he would have to prove he can hit major league pitching.
The result of an arbitration hearing for Angel third baseman Jack Howell, held Thursday in Chicago before arbitrator Anthony Sinicropi, is expected to be announced today.
Howell, who hit .228 last season, requested $835,000 this season. The Angels offered $652,500, Howell's 1990 salary. Howell appeared to become expendable after the signing of free agent Gary Gaetti, but the departure of Chili Davis could leave Howell as the backup in left field and at third base. Howell played left field on a regular basis in 1987.
The Angels avoided arbitration hearings with seven other players this winter and underwent the process previously with first baseman Wally Joyner. The Angels lost that case when Joyner was awarded a 1991 salary of $2.1 million.