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Belcher Confuses the Trade Issue

If Tim Belcher’s performance Saturday night was a showcase for a possible trade, the Angels have to be left wondering which pitcher they would be getting.

The one that held them to one hit through four innings?

Or the one that gave up five runs and seven hits in the next two?

Belcher threw 112 pitches, 74 of them for strikes, and gave up 10 hits and all six Angel runs. He struck out five and walked one.

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The Angels’ biggest hit was a bases-loaded triple by Craig Shipley, a perfectly placed looping liner that eluded diving right fielder Jeff Conine and rolled to the wall in the fifth inning.

“The outfield is pretty soggy and [Conine] didn’t get a real good jump,” Royal Manager Tony Muser said. “Catch that ball and it’s whole different ballgame.”

Belcher, who walked Jim Edmonds to load the bases before facing Shipley, said he would do it again.

“Shipley just put it out there in the right place,” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing about the whole sequence. I certainly wasn’t going to let Edmonds beat me.”

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Despite the two rocky innings, Angel Manager Terry Collins liked what he saw.

“He can pitch,” Collins said. “That’s why so many people want him.”

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Left-hander Chuck Finley is relieved he didn’t suffer any broken bones when struck just above his left elbow by a line drive off the bat of Jeff King on Friday night, but the latest in a two-year string of freak injuries does have him in a bit of “why me?” mode.

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“Last night, he thought he broke his arm,” Collins said. “When he found out he didn’t, he felt a little better, but he is wondering when something is going to go right for him.

“There really isn’t that much swelling for how hard that ball was hit, but there is the pain and stiffness you’d expect. It’ll be another day until we know [whether Finley will miss his next start Wednesday.”

*

The Angels hoped Randy Velarde would be their starting second baseman when they signed him to a three-year, $2.4-million contract, and Velarde played well in the first year of the contract in 1996, batting .285 with a career-high 14 home runs. He missed all of last season, however, and all but two games this year after reconstructive elbow surgery.

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Still, General Manager Bill Bavasi says he wants to sign Velarde to a new contract, one that would inevitably include a low base salary. His presence would provide the Angels with another option next season should the young players expected to start at second base (Justin Baughman) and third (Troy Glaus) struggle.

“If we can do the right deal with him, he’s a guy we’d like to have around,” Bavasi said. “We’ll have to find the right position for him. He may have lost his versatility, though. Versatility is real hard on an arm.”

Velarde, whose scheduled rehabilitation assignment at triple-A Vancouver was postponed last week because of upper-arm soreness--a problem unrelated to the elbow injury--played several minutes of long toss Friday and Saturday.

“I really aired it out [Friday] and it feels good today,” Velarde said. “We’ll see how it bounces back, but I’m hoping that I’ll be ready to go [to Vancouver] when we get back [Tuesday].”

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TODAY

ANGELS’ OMAR OLIVARES

(6-6, 3.98 ERA)

vs.

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ROYALS’ JOSE ROSADO

(4-8, 4.01 ERA)

Kauffman Stadium, 11 a.m. PDT

Radio--KRLA (1110), XPRS (1090).

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* Update--Rosado is looking to rebound from the worst start of his career when he got only two outs in a 15-5 loss to Texas. He has faced the Angels twice this season--including a five-hit shutout May 27 in Anaheim--and has a 1.69 earned-run average against them. Olivares, who was 0-4 with a 9.64 ERA in four starts before last Sunday, gave up only three runs and struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings of a 7-4 loss to the Orioles. Left-hander Allen Watson will replace Steve Sparks as Monday’s starter for the Angels. Garret Anderson improved his career-best hitting streak to 22 games Saturday with a fifth-inning single.


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