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Monteleone’s Return Is a Big Relief

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“What Rich will do for the Angels, when all the other guys are healthy is, well, basically pitch when they’re out of a game.”

And with that less-than-glowing introduction from Sparky Anderson Thursday night, Rich Monteleone began his third stint with the Angels.

Whether or not Anderson’s television commentary will prove correct remains to be seen, but the debut of Monteleone III was no mop-up situation on the wrong end of a blowout.

He began the seventh inning in relief of Chuck Finley with the Angels clutching a one-run lead and after he had pitched two innings, they still led by one. Mike James pitched the ninth to earn the save as the Angels beat Toronto, 6-4.

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“That was the key, Rich giving us those two innings, that was big,” Manager Marcel Lachemann. “He came into this game with everything on the line, a one-run lead and all of their left-handers sitting on the bench.

“It was huge because that’s an area [middle relief] we’ve been hurt in before.”

Monteleone yielded a single in the seventh and one in the eighth, but he struck out Juan Samuel to end the seventh and pinch-hitter Shawn Green to close the eighth.

Mop-up or middle relief, it all looks pretty good to the 33-year-old right-hander who was granted free agency by the Angels last December and chose to sign a contract with the Yankees, hoping to slip into a New York starting rotation that was filled with question marks before spring training.

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“It was a business decision, but when Jimmy [Key], Melido [Perez] and Dwight [Gooden] all were healthy and pitched great in the spring, three spots that looked like they might be vacant were filled.”

Monteleone pitched only three innings during spring training and was optioned to the Yankees’ triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, when rosters were trimmed to 25 before opening day.

“I accepted the assignment to the minors and at least I got plenty of work,” he said. “The first three weeks at Columbus were pretty tough because I basically had to pitch myself into shape since I got no work during the spring.”

A veteran of nine major league seasons, Monteleone was 4-3 with a 3.60 earned-run average in 21 appearances with the Clippers before the Angels reacquired him in a trade that sent outfielder Mike Aldrete to New York.

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Monteleone was 2-2 in 27 appearances with the Angels during the 1988 and ’89 seasons and was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in nine games last season. He joined the team in July after a stint in Japan.

“I was very excited for the opportunity to come back and glad they still feel I can help the team,” Monteleone said. “It’s a pretty comfortable feeling here because I know most of the guys and all of the coaches.”

Lachemann is a bit of a father figure for Monteleone, who pitched only seven innings in the majors with Seattle in 1987 before coming over to the Angels the next season. And pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is like, well, a brother-in-law figure. Hernandez is married to Monteleone’s sister, Donna.

“It’s a small world,” Monteleone said, smiling, “but it’s great to be back with Chuck because he’s done more for my career than anyone. He’s really helped me out.”

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Now if he could just get Sparky to work on his welcome-back-to-the-big-leagues introductions.


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