Spike Owen is the Angels’ new shortstop, but he understands why he hasn’t been named the permanent replacement for All-Star Gary DiSarcina, who probably is out for the season because of a thumb injury.
“I realize they have to cover themselves,” Owen said. “I’m just going to try and keep the job. I can’t say I’m going to go out there and be healthy for the rest of the season, because anything can happen. But I’m going to play hard and if I get hurt, then I get hurt.”
Owen is 34. He’s coming off a shoulder injury that will need surgery in November and he hasn’t played shortstop regularly in two years. Oh, and he’s replacing someone who was leading all American League shortstops in hitting (.317) and was second in fielding (.987). Owen is hitting a robust .222 after going 1 for 4 with an RBI single Saturday night against Texas.
Angel Manager Marcel Lachemann said Saturday Owen is the shortstop until he shows he can’t do the job.
“He’s going to play a few days in a row,” Lachemann said. “There’s a few things we have to look at. He’s got the shoulder [problem]. There’s no doubt about that. We’ll have to see how he does and evaluate it--see how he feels.”
Owen said he’s feeling fine. The torn ligament in his left shoulder is not healed, but it’s not bothering him either. Because he throws right-handed, Owen said his injury doesn’t affect his fielding. And Owen realizes he will be judged on how he fields his position, not on how he hits.
“I’m not Gary, nor is Gary me,” said Owen, who made a throwing error Saturday night in the fifth inning, and fielding and throwing miscues on the same play in the ninth, giving him five in 47 games. “I’ve got to catch the ball and do the things that I can do to help the ball club. Everybody wants to hit, but I’ve got to make all the plays. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who can hit.”
But Owen, who batted .310 in 268 at-bats last year, knows Lachemann wouldn’t mind if he picked up a key hit occasionally.
“Hopefully I can get something going if I’m in there consistently,” said Owen, who entered his 13th major league season with a .246 career batting average. “I’m going to have to hit some time anyway.”
But Lachemann appears content to have a shortstop who can catch and throw.
“You can’t replace an All-Star shortstop who’s hitting .300,” Lachemann said. “There’s not a lot of those guys floating around out there. Our first priority is a defensive player.”
The Angels have signed former Angel Dick Schofield to a minor league contract, called up Rod Correia as insurance and worked out second baseman Damion Easley at shortstop before the game. But Owen, who played in the 1986 World Series with the Red Sox, topped the list Saturday as he made his third start of ’95 at short.
“I really don’t feel any pressure because we’re a team,” he said. “We wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t have guys picking each other up all season. This is the kind of situation you want to be in--playing on a winning ball club. This is the fun time. This is what you play for.”