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From Small Things, Big Things One Day Come

It wasn’t exactly a ticker-tape parade down Broadway, but the tiny town of Ebensburg, Pa., gave Mike Holtz the red-carpet treatment last fall, proclaiming Oct. 26 “Mike Holtz Day” and honoring the Angel reliever and hometown hero with a parade and a party.

“I got to ride in a fire engine and ring the bell,” Holtz said at Tempe Diablo Stadium, as fellow relievers Troy Percival and Mike James chuckled. “I needed a booster seat.”

Holtz, a 5-foot-8, 174-pound left-hander, can joke about his size--"Hey, it could be worse; I could be 5-7,” he said--and teammates love teasing him about it.

But there was nothing diminutive about his contributions in 1996. Called up from double-A Midland July 11, Holtz went 3-3 with a 2.45 earned-run average in 30 appearances.

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Holtz allowed only six of 29 inherited runners to score and retired 19 of 30 first batters he faced. Opponents hit .204 against him, he gave up only one home run and had a 13-inning scoreless streak.

Not a bad debut for a 17th-round pick (1994) who had spent all of two years in the minor leagues--and not a day in triple A.

“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Holtz said.

It has to the Angels, who are counting on Holtz to be a significant part of one of the league’s better bullpens.

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“I even have my own locker this year,” he said. “Last year I had to share one with two guys. . . . It’s nice to know where you stand.”

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Jinx? Manager Terry Collins said that, barring any unforeseen problems, left-hander Chuck Finley would be the opening-night starter when the Angels play the Boston Red Sox April 2 at Anaheim Stadium. An hour later, the Angels reported that Finley was experiencing slight inflammation of his left shoulder, was placed on medication and will be held out of throwing drills for several days.

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Free-agent utility infielder Mike Gallego turned down the Angels’ minor league contract offer and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday. . . . The Angels’ first full-squad workout will be Friday, and the team will have intrasquad games Tuesday and next Wednesday before opening the exhibition season against Brigham Young University Feb. 27.


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