ANGELS : Fortugno Given His Unconditional Release

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angel pitcher Tim Fortugno sat numbly Tuesday morning, listening to Angel Manager Buck Rodgers but unable to grasp his meaning.

Fortugno, who at 30 last season was the oldest player in Angel history to make his major league debut, was given his unconditional release.

"I was caught off-guard," said Fortugno, who had a 27.00 earned-run average this spring. "I never saw it coming. I thought it was very realistic I'd be going to triple A, but not released."

Rodgers said it had become apparent that Fortugno was not going to make the team, and, considering the Angels' youth movement, there was no point in keeping him in triple A.

"We wanted to give him a chance to catch on someplace else," Rodgers said. "It's a shame because you don't see that many major league arms, and he has one. He's got two major league pitches--a fastball and curveball--but that isn't good enough.

"He's 30 years old, and he keeps teasing you with that major league arm, but it just wasn't happening for him. I've been looking for him to make adjustments all spring, but I didn't see any."

Fortugno, who will be remembered as the pitcher who yielded George Brett's 3,000th hit, said he was grateful for the way the Angels handled his release.

"When I was in Philadelphia, I came in one day and my locker was already cleaned out with a pink slip on the shelf," Fortugno said. "So this was a lot more professional.

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Chuck Crim, a six-year veteran, on seeing teammates getting released: "It's tough, but you start to develop a morbid approach to it. It's like being in the Army and losing one of your buddies in the war."

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