The Angels say they haven’t lost confidence in third baseman George Arias, but sometimes actions--in this case, the signing of third baseman Dave Hollins to a two-year, $3.8-million contract--speak louder than words.
Arias was the surprise story of last spring, batting .388 in the exhibition season to win the starting job, but the only question this spring seems to be whether Arias would be better off on the big-league bench or playing at triple-A Vancouver.
“A lot of people think he should play every day, but there’s also a lot to learn here,” Manager Terry Collins said. “You can see what it takes to get to the next level.”
Arias batted .184 the first month of 1996 and was demoted to Vancouver May 7. He was recalled July 16 and finished with a .238 average. Arias, 25, needed help hitting breaking balls, and the Angels sent him to the Mexican Winter League, where he faced a steady diet of off-speed pitches.
“I basically learned to trust myself, to stay back and drive breaking pitches,” Arias said. “I learned a lot.” He’s also learning that you must produce to stay in the major leagues, regardless of your reputation.
“That’s the nature of the game--you think you’re going to start, the next minute someone takes your job,” Arias said. “Things may have happened too fast last year. I was in awe every time I went to bat. I’d be thinking, ‘Man, I’m facing Orel Hershiser,’ instead of thinking about hitting.”
The legend of Shigetoshi Hasegawa grew Sunday when the Japanese right-hander threw batting practice to Tim Salmon and broke three of Salmon’s bats. “He was using Mizuno bats, that’s why,” Collins said. “Those Japanese pitchers know how to snap those things.”
Salmon, of course, fielded questions from the Japanese media contingent afterward and got a kick out of being the focus of an international story. “It’s kind of neat,” he said. “You hear about Nomo-mania, and we’re getting our taste of it now.”
Hasegawa is sure to create another stir Wednesday when he starts in the Angels’ intrasquad game. Allen Watson, Dennis Springer, Darrell May and Chuck McElroy will follow Hasegawa, and Mark Langston, Mark Gubicza, Jim Abbott, Shad Williams and Troy Percival will pitch for the opposing team.
Chuck Finley, held out of throwing drills for five days because of a sore shoulder, threw for 15 minutes off a bullpen mound Sunday and said he felt fine. . . . Ted Updike, the agent for Salmon, will meet with the Angels today in hopes of finalizing a five-year contract extension, but he didn’t seem real optimistic about the deal being completed before Salmon’s self-imposed Tuesday deadline. “It’s two steps forward, three steps back sometimes,” Updike said. “Whether it’s going to happen, I don’t know.”