Voices drift toward home plate with derisive messages, reminding Angel outfielder Dave Winfield he is no longer a friend to the fans at Desert Sun Stadium.
He is overpaid, they say, a poor imitation of what he was in his younger days as a San Diego Padre. Winfield smiles, knowing they wouldn't bother if they didn't consider him a threat.
"I hear them a little bit," he said. "There are some positive things, and the other things are mostly just in jest. I've seen a lot of old fans, people I remember who work at the bank, the convenience store."
They may not be happy to see him, but he's happy to be seen. Determined to prove his second-half surge last season is a better measure of his talents than his poor first half, Winfield is off to a good start. He was one for three Saturday in the Angels' 2-1 loss to the Padres and is three for six in two games, a good start for a slow starter.
"I've got more hits now than I've gotten in my Yankee spring trainings," said Winfield, who missed the 1989 season because of back surgery but rebounded to hit .267 last season and become the American League's comeback player of the year. "I had one hit, I think, in all those years, so you know I'm on the right track."
But he hasn't yet found the right track on the basepaths. After being thrown out Friday oversliding second, Winfield was thrown out Saturday trying to go from first to third on Jack Howell's run-scoring single in the sixth inning.
"Do I get released for getting thrown out twice?" he asked.
Not that Winfield, who was acquired from the Yankees last May for pitcher Mike Witt, needs to worry about being cut.
"Not hardly," Angel Manager Doug Rader said dryly. "Not for that kind of effort. . . . He's in much better physical condition than he was when he joined us. Just watch the way he goes after fly balls now and the way he does things defensively. He's worked hard to get himself into good condition."
He is also in a good frame of mind.
"I just come along at my own speed and get ready for the season," Winfield said. "I just try to build my arm strength and leg strength. I'm all right (at the plate), but I'm like Yogi Berra. He said you only get so many hits during the year and you don't want to use them up in spring training."
Kirk McCaskill gave up two runs in the first inning on consecutive singles by Tony Fernandez, Tony Gwynn, Fred McGriff and Benito Santiago, but the Angel right-hander was satisfied with his initial exhibition effort.
McCaskill gave up six hits in three innings, throwing 28 strikes and 19 balls. He also picked Bip Roberts off first base.
"I have no complaints for the first time out," said McCaskill, whose rehabilitation from off-season surgery on his right elbow seems complete. "There were a couple of bloops, a couple of bad pitches, a couple of decent pitches. I'm right where I want to be."
Jeff Robinson pitched two perfect innings to earn accolades from Rader, who hasn't decided how to use the 30-year-old right-hander. Long relief is Robinson's likely niche, but he can also start. "If he's as proficient as today, he can pick his role," Rader said.
Cliff Young, who gave up one hit over two innings, and Mark Eichhorn, who gave up one hit and struck out two in one inning, also were impressive. "I think we're in a very good situation," Rader said, referring to his bullpen.
Rader's only concern was the Angels' offense, which struggled to score one run Saturday after producing 11 runs and 17 hits Friday.
"What we're doing is working on both aspects of the game on an alternating basis. (Friday) we worked on offense, and today it was pitching and defense," Rader said jokingly.
"We've got a long trip to our final destination, and the way we get there is important. To put the wrong emphasis on what we do in Yuma, Ariz., is a silly thing to do."
Pitching coach Marcel Lachemann will monitor Bert Blyleven in today's B game. Lachemann said before spring training that he was pessimistic about Blyleven's ability to come back from right shoulder surgery in time for the season. After watching Blyleven's progress, he is not writing off the 39-year-old right-hander.
"A lot depends on how free he is throwing the ball," Lachemann said. "If his arm is free, he'll get enough velocity."
Left-hander Bob McClure, who has been bothered by a strained left shoulder, pitched from the mound and felt no pain. He will throw every other day three more times.