ANGELS : Replacements So Close to Regular Season, but . . .


Angel replacement players came to Arizona six weeks ago not knowing whether they'd be here a few days, a few weeks or a month. They wound up playing the entire Cactus League schedule.

But as they broke camp and traveled to Orange County for this weekend's Freeway Series, they were back where they started. Uncertain.

Major league players voted Wednesday to end the 7 1/2-month strike if a federal judge issues an injunction restoring salary arbitration and free-agent bidding. A hearing Friday could bring a ruling over the weekend that would mean replacements may not start the regular season.

"Everyone's pretty loose, but we're still worried about the carpet getting pulled out from under our feet," pitcher Carlos Castillo said. "I would be pretty bummed if that happened. It would be like having your arm amputated. How can you not be disappointed when you're this close to playing in the big leagues?"

Replacements have conditioned themselves to cope with such uncertainty. But now that they've made it to Anaheim, expectations have risen.

"We kept playing through spring training like the strike wasn't going to end, and it hasn't," reliever Doug Robertson said. "It would be real disappointing (not starting the season), but you knew going in that could happen. You have to be realistic about it."

Meanwhile, striking Angel players have their own uncertainty. First baseman J.T. Snow, who has recovered from winter shoulder surgery and has been working out in Orange County since January, said he's neither encouraged nor discouraged by this week's labor developments.

"There have been so many times where we've been optimistic, then depressed, so you just take it a day at a time and hope something good happens," Snow said. "When it's finally settled, then I'll get excited."


The replacement Angels closed the Cactus League schedule with a 12-11-1 record. . . . Mike Schooler, former Seattle Mariner bullpen ace, and Darrin Doty, an outfielder, had not previously committed to playing regular-season replacement games for the Angels. But they will accompany the team to Anaheim, and both have informed the team they would start the regular season.

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