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ANGELS : Felix Making a Good Impression

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Junior Felix was said to have a bad attitude when he played for Toronto, an assessment made by teammates unlikely to win popularity awards themselves.

Whatever his problems in Toronto, the Dominican-born center fielder is thrilled to be with the Angels, who acquired him and second baseman Luis Sojo from the Blue Jays last winter for Willie Fraser and Devon White.

“I don’t like it here,” Felix said. “I love the people here. They are friendly. You do something wrong and they tell you, ‘You do this and this wrong.’ Nobody yell at me. They don’t feel envy. You can just try to do your job.”

Anyone would envy Felix’s performance against the Chicago Cubs Tuesday. He went four for five and drove in six runs, including three on a home run in the eighth inning, as the Angels won, 16-4, at Angels Stadium.

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The hardy souls in the crowd of 5,301 who braved chill winds saw Felix get two singles and a double while batting left-handed, and hit a home run from the right side of the plate off Paul Assenmacher. Last season, Felix hit .289 left-handed and .211 right-handed, an imbalance he’d like to correct.

“It could be that you face too many right-handed pitchers and you have to hit left-handed more,” he said.

He wants to cut down on his strikeouts--he struck out 99 times in 463 at-bats last season and 101 times in 415 at-bats in 1989--but isn’t likely to walk much.

“I don’t cut my swing except when I have two strikes, then I cut it a little bit,” said Felix, who lifted his spring batting average to .359 and increased his RBI total to 13. “I don’t take too many pitches. If (the pitcher) comes in (the strike zone), you know I’m going to swing.”

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He’s getting into the swing of things with the Angels after his initial shyness.

“When you come for the first time to a new team, you look like this,” he said, narrowing his eyes to give his face a wary look. “They have (Luis) Polonia here, and it’s nice to have somebody who speaks my own language. A lot of American guys don’t speak (Spanish).”

Three Angel errors helped the Cubs keep the game close until the third inning, when an RBI single by Dave Gallagher and Felix’s bases-loaded double off loser Shawn Boskie gave the Angels a 7-2 lead. The Angels scored at least once in every inning and amassed 22 hits, their best offensive output this spring.

Those errors made three of the runs Chicago scored off Mark Langston unearned, reducing his earned-run average to 1.69 through 16 innings.

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“It was a day to try to throw strikes and survive,” Langston said after becoming the first Angel pitcher to go six innings in a game. “The defense behind me was great, considering the conditions. It started out cold and got worse and worse every inning.”

Bill Lachemann, a spring training coach and manager of the Angels’ Mesa (Ariz.) rookie club, expects his son, Tim, home from the Middle East within 10 days.

Sgt. Tim Lachemann was a tank crew commander in Iraq during the Gulf War, and he was unable to contact his family until last week.

“He’s in Saudi Arabia right now, which is better than Iraq,” the elder Lachemann said. “You’ll know when he comes home. You’ll hear me screaming.”

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