Not-Quite-Angels Open Camp : Baseball: Lachemann sees lots of reminders that these are replacement players as staff gauges talent.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The left-hander who works in the car-detailing business zipped a fastball into the mitt of the Home Depot department manager Friday, and with that the Angels' 1995 spring training camp was in full swing.

Angel Manager Marcel Lachemann and his coaching staff--including Rod Carew and Rick Burleson--plus General Manager Bill Bavasi and assistant GM Tim Mead were all on the Gene Autry Park field as workouts for pitchers and catchers began, lending a big-league air to the proceedings.

But one look at the Angel roster, where players were assigned numbers ranging from 41 to 90, reminded you this was no big-league camp.

"I've got a sheet with numbers that I'm trying to put to names," said Lachemann, starting his first full season as a manager. "That's not something I'd normally do."

Those high numbers weren't confined to Angel jerseys--they were also in many player biographies. Of 48 on the spring training roster, 13 are 30 or older.

Only seven have major league experience, and they have combined to play in 184 games. But 125 of those appearances were by 32-year-old pitcher Darrel Akerfelds, who spent parts of five seasons with four major league teams and played last season in Taiwan.

Fans who have followed Southern California high school and college baseball might remember a handful of players in the Angels' camp: Former Cal State Fullerton outfielders John Fishel and Chris Powell and pitchers Doug Robertson, Dion Beck and Tony Fetchel are on the team.

Other local products are catchers Ken Briggs (Foothill High, Chapman University) and David Liddell (Riverside Rubidoux), pitchers Richard Doyle (now closed La Mirada Neff High), Leo Ramirez (South Gate High, Cal State Northridge) and Chris Gunnett (Ramona High), and outfielders Greg Shockey (Mater Dei, Cal State Northridge), Demond Smith (Rialto Eisenhower) and Pete Weber (UC Riverside).

Then there's Tookie Spann, the outfielder with the catchy name. Wait'll ESPN's Chris Berman gets ahold of that one.

"Everyone here wants to play in the big leagues," said Beck, who has spent most of the past seven years detailing cars. "It's terrible that I have to get my opportunity because of disagreements between players and owners, but that's not my concern."

Though Beck said he would have no problem being a replacement player, several others hedged when asked if they would cross a picket line to play for fear of being targeted by major leaguers.

"Until the season starts I'm just a guy trying to get a job in the minor leagues," said 33-year-old catcher Phil Ouellette, who was working at a Home Depot in Cerritos until he impressed the Angels at a tryout camp and received a contract offer.

As the aspiring Angels were completing their first workout Friday, Mark Holzemer was reporting to his job as a car salesman at Earnhardt's Dodge in Gilbert, Ariz., a few miles away.

If not for the baseball strike, Holzemer, an Angel pitcher who converted from starter to reliever during the off-season, would have been in camp Friday, stretching, running sprints and working on pickoff moves.

Instead, he spent the afternoon discussing air bags and anti-lock breaks and the standard features of various minivans, cars and trucks.

"I have to sell cars today, but I'd rather be out there running poles (sprints from one foul pole to another)," said Holzemer, a left-hander who is on the Angels' 40-man roster but has only 45 days of major league service.

It's players such as Holzemer, Garret Anderson, one of the Angels' top outfield prospects who is working at a Miller's Outpost in Newhall, and Troy Percival, the team's bullpen stopper of the future who also has a job lined up selling cars in Gilbert, who may be suffering most during the strike.

They're promising rookies who haven't made the big money yet, so they don't have a huge financial nest egg to fall back on. They have to sell cars and clothes or paint houses--anything to make ends meet.

"A lot of people have the perception that we're all rich and squabbling over millions of dollars, but there are guys who are struggling over this," Holzemer said.

Many players on the borderline between the majors and triple-A also fear that the long layoff might stunt their progress, especially if they're not allowed to play in the minors during the strike.

"It stinks for guys who are on the 40-man roster but not in the big leagues," said Anderson, who hit .385 in five games for the Angels last season. "We're missing out on development. You don't want to be sidetracked, but this is all for a good purpose in the long run."

The presence of replacement players only compounds the frustration for Angel rookies.

"I'm not bitter toward them personally, I guess I can understand their situation," Holzemer said. "But then again, they're taking money from me now, that's for sure."

*

Angel notes

Manager Marcel Lachemann, informed that Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson had taken an unpaid leave of absence because he didn't want to coach a replacement team, said he had not considered such a move. "My job is to manage this club--I'm hired by the Angels to do that. To me, there's no decision. I either work or I don't have a job," he said. . . . Angel President Richard Brown said Anaheim City Manager James Ruth and Anaheim Stadium General Manager Greg Smith will travel to Tempe next week or early the following week to resume negotiations to build a baseball-only stadium next to the current facility.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°