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Angels Need to Protect Themselves

It is admirable, I think, that so many in the media are doing so much to help save the Angels from themselves this off-season. Baseball America, Baseball Weekly, baseball writers writing weekly across America--all of them have offered advice as to whom the Angels should place on their 15-man protected list this winter.

Always glad to lend a hand, here, too, is my suggested protected list--the 15 players the Angels need to protect the most:

Dave Winfield

Wally Joyner

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Kirk McCaskill

Mike Fetters

Kyle Abbott

Ruben Amar . . .

Oh, sorry.

That was last year’s list.

This year, expansion beckons, with the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins looking to stock their inaugural rosters. Each of the existing 26 major-league clubs has until Monday to submit its protected list, then the Rockies and the Marlins will have a week to look them over before engaging in a three-round expansion draft on Nov. 17.

The bad news for the Angels: No matter what they do, they are going to lose at least two players.

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The good news for the Angels: No matter what they do, they are going to lose at least two players.

Baseball Weekly staged a mock expansion draft and had the Angels losing Lee Stevens in the first round, Rob Ducey in the second and no one in the third (only eight American League clubs will lose players in the third round).

Stevens and Ducey?

A first baseman the Angels don’t want and an outfielder thrown into the Mark Eichhorn-for-Greg Myers trade at the insistence of the Toronto Blue Jays?

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Where does Whitey Herzog sign for that kind of deal? And how much does he have to pay?

In Baseball America’s mock draft, the Angels lost three minor league pitchers--Hilly Hathaway, Mark Holzemer and Ron Watson. This was curious in that a) the pseudo-Rockies and the quasi-Marlins found three pitchers in the Angel farm system worth drafting, and b) the faux Angels would not deem Hathaway, the organization’s top starting pitching prospect, worth protecting.

Angel Manager Buck Rodgers, who has some say in the matter, cites starting pitching depth as one of his team’s most crying needs. Once the Angels get past Jim Abbott, Mark Langston, Chuck Finley and Julio Valera, who’s left?

Methuselah Blyleven?

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Pete Janicki, last June’s No. 1 draft pick, who has yet to pitch a professional inning because of a sore arm?

Hathaway, who was a combined 9-3 with a 2.87 earned-run average while pitching for Palm Springs and Midland last summer, is the main safety net. He isn’t targeted to break into the Angels’ rotation next April, but the Angels are playing for 1994, anyway.

He ought to be a keeper--and, according to my calculations, the Angels have a way to do it.

In no particular order, here are the 15 the Angels should protect (yes, I was able to find 15):

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1. Abbott. And then sign him, for heaven’s sakes. Unless Toronto’s offering Juan Guzman, Roberto Alomar, John Olerud and, ahem, Devon White.

2. Langston. He was only 13-14, but without him, the Angels would have been 59-76.

3. Finley. Too soon to give up now.

4. Valera. One Whitey trade that worked. Rule No. 1 from The Fisherman’s Handbook: Never throw back your biggest catch.

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5. Hathaway.

6. Bryan Harvey. The contract is huge, the elbow surgery was scary but, asks The Fisherman’s Handbook, can you dangle 109 saves in four seasons and not have the Marlins bite?

7. Joe Grahe. After 21 saves in 1992, there’s no more Grahe area.

8. Troy Percival. In case Harvey’s elbow balks. He throws 95 miles an hour.

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9. Tim Salmon. The Angels have waited this long . . .

10. Chad Curtis. One-hundred and fifty-two stolen bases in his last three professional seasons, including 43 as an Angel rookie. His 10 home runs in ’92 look Fielderesque on this roster.

11. Gary DiSarcina. Hit .247 in his first full season. Dick Schofield hit .193 in his first and .219 the next. DiSarcina also drove in 42 runs. In nine big-league seasons, Schofield bettered that total only twice.

12. Damion Easley. Does he play third base? Second base? Center field? Shortstop? The Angels can keep him now, assign him later.

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13. Kevin Flora. The second baseman of the future. Batted .324 at Edmonton last season.

14. Luis Polonia. I guess you have to keep someone from the 1991 batting order. And Luis did win the Angels’ MVP award.

15. John Orton. The Angels insist they must protect a catcher. Me, I can’t understand why. If Orton goes, surely Greg Myers or Ron Tingley or the next name on the waiver wire can hit .203, the extent of Orton’s career big-league batting average, but I’ll indulge the Angels on this one.

So who does that leave as Rockie and Marlin bait?

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Gary Gaetti? The Angels say P-L-E-A-S-E.

Junior Felix? Whitey has a nickname for the Angels’ RBI leader. Felix The Dog.

Luis Sojo? That Devon White deal was some trade, wasn’t it?

Lee Stevens? No “Wall-ee” chants reported in Denver or Miami yet.

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The Angels don’t have much to lose, if they send in the proper list. That’s the beauty of going 72-90 on the eve of expansion.

But the Angels figure they have lost enough already.

“And the Florida Marlins select pitching coach Marcel Lachemann, one month before the start of the first round.”

Talk about somebody the Angels needed to protect.

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