The Angels were blown out of their first exhibition game by the Oakland Athletics, 10-1, Friday, but the afternoon was a rousing success for second baseman Randy Velarde.
Playing his first game in almost a year, Velarde doubled his first time up, scored the Angels’ only run and made a diving stop of Ben Grieve’s grounder into the hole before throwing wide--from his back--to first base.
“To dive around, make plays and contribute with the bat, as opposed to getting dressed and watching games, is so unbelievable I can’t put it into words,” said Velarde, who sat out all of 1997 because of elbow reconstruction surgery.
“When something like [a career-threatening injury] happens, it really opens your eyes. You appreciate being out there, and you can’t take that for granted because you never know when it’s going to end, or when your career is going to take a detour.”
Velarde is still experiencing tightness in the elbow, and he needs to gain more arm strength.
“But they’ve stressed that I should stay patient,” he said. “I still feel that first ball in the gap, when I have to unload a relay throw to third or home, will be the test. They said be smart about it.
“If I don’t have a play, don’t cut loose on it. They’re not concerned about me being ready right now, they want me healthy all season.”
General Manager Bill Bavasi said Friday there was “absolutely no truth” to an Associated Press report that Cuban pitcher Orlando Hernandez would sign with the Angels this weekend.
The story said that Joe Cubas, Hernandez’s agent, was flying to Arizona to meet with Angel President Tony Tavares and complete the deal, but Tavares said Friday he had no plans to travel to Phoenix this weekend.
The Angels are still talking to Hernandez’s agent, “but we haven’t even made him an offer,” Bavasi said. If the Angels do sign Hernandez, the 32- year-old right-hander is not expected to have a major impact. on the Angels.
“We don’t see Hernandez as pitching in the big leagues [right away],” Bavasi said. “We see him more as a development project.”
Pitcher Jack McDowell was all dressed up with no place to throw Friday morning. McDowell was in uniform before the game, but it wasn’t until the Angels put the finishing touches on his contract and McDowell signed it in the afternoon that the former Cy Young Award winner was cleared to work out.
McDowell, who also had a physical Friday, threw for about 15 minutes in the bullpen, showing velocity and command of all of his pitches. Manager Terry Collins said he will use McDowell in a game next week.
“I hope it doesn’t take a lot of convincing to show them where I’m at,” McDowell said, coming off 1997 elbow surgery but who has been throwing regularly since January. “But I miss throwing to hitters. I’ve been out a long time [since last May], and throwing on the side is nothing compared to throwing in a game.”