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Bavasi Looking but Good Help Is Hard to Find

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gary DiSarcina smiled at the memory. One year ago today, with the Angels and Seattle Mariners jousting for the playoff spot reserved for the American League West champions, the Angels traded for pitcher Ken Hill.

“It was a huge lift,” DiSarcina said. “He’s a No. 1, No. 2 type of guy. Knowing we could get him and [Chuck] Finley out there was a big morale boost.”

DiSarcina and his Angel teammates sure could use another pitching boost today. The Angels lead the AL West, yes, but they have lost two of every three games in July, and at that pace they can’t expect to hold off the Texas Rangers much longer.

They can’t expect another Hill, either. The combination of the mediocrity of available pitching and the Angels’ limited inventory of surplus players makes a trade by Friday’s deadline unlikely.

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Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi is batting 1.000 in picking up pitchers in pennant pushes, having acquired Hill last year and Jim Abbott in 1995. But with the possible exception of Randy Johnson, whom the Mariners will not trade to the Angels, this market is devoid of top starters.

“There is some decent pitching out there,” Bavasi said. “I don’t think there is a Ken Hill.”

That hasn’t stopped teams from asking seemingly extraordinary prices for ordinary pitchers. The Pirates wanted Darin Erstad for Jason Schmidt. The Royals asked for rookie second baseman Justin Baughman in exchange for Tim Belcher, 36. When the Angels said no, the Royals countered by asking for pitcher Jason Dickson.

Bavasi said he will not fill one hole by creating another, so outfielders Garret Anderson and Jim Edmonds appear safe. Bavasi also said Triple-A third base prodigy Troy Glaus, who hit his 35th home run Monday, is all but untouchable.

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“We’re in an enviable position,” Bavasi said. “We’re in a decent position in the standings. We’re not constrained by budget.

“But none of that adds up to us making a foolish deal. Moving a premium prospect for anything less than someone who definitely gets you over the hump and who you can retain beyond this year is foolish.”

Montreal’s Carlos Perez could fit that description, a potential ace two years away from free agency, but the Angels won’t trade Erstad or Glaus to get him. The Angels have discussed including Dickson in a trade for the Cardinals’ Todd Stottlemyre, who like Belcher can leave via free agency after the season.

The list of available pitchers also is believed to include Toronto’s Juan Guzman, Oakland’s Tom Candiotti, Philadelphia’s Mark Portugal and Pittsburgh’s Jon Lieber. Colorado’s Pedro Astacio and Oakland’s Kenny Rogers could command a high return if either becomes available.

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The Angels rank outfielder Norm Hutchins and pitcher Scott Schoeneweis as their most advanced prospects beyond Glaus, but neither player has drawn more than lukewarm interest from other clubs. The Angels also counted Brian Cooper and Ramon Ortiz as top pitching prospects this spring, but Cooper has a 7.23 ERA at double-A Midland and Ortiz is out for the season with an elbow injury.

“If there’s rumors, it’s obvious the front office is trying,” DiSarcina said. “That’s why I’m happy I’m not up there. With the wild card [and all the potential playoff teams], other teams can hold you hostage. This is the time of year when you’re happy to face David Cone instead of making those types of decisions.”


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