Angel pitcher Jason Dickson threw his normal between-starts workout Friday and declared himself fit for Sunday's game against the Rangers. Yes, that loud exhale you just heard was from Manager Terry Collins.
"When Ned [Bergert, Angel trainer] told me what happened, I said, 'What the . . . ?' " said Collins, who already has lost three-fifths of his opening-day rotation to the disabled list. "It gave me a huge scare, but it looks like Jason will be fine."
Dickson wasn't so sure Wednesday. While taking batting practice in preparation for interleague play, the bat slipped out of his hands on a swing and into the cage.
Recalling the broken orbital bone suffered by Chuck Finley when he was hit in the face by a bat that slipped out of reliever Mike James' hands in spring training of 1997, Dickson said his first thought was: "Uh-oh, I hope I didn't hit anyone."
"Chuck and I kind of laughed about it," Dickson said. "But then I realized my finger was killing me."
Dickson suffered a broken right index finger, which he likened to "jamming your finger playing basketball."
"It would be a problem if I threw a split-fingered fastball or something," Dickson said. "It's still tender to touch, but it doesn't affect my grip or the pressure I can put on the ball."
The Angels scored the tying run in the sixth inning Friday night on Matt Walbeck's RBI single, but a potentially bigger inning might have been thwarted by one of their own fans.
With the Angels trailing, 2-1, Jim Edmonds and Tim Salmon opened the sixth with singles, and Cecil Fielder followed with a foul popup beyond the first- base bag.
Ranger first baseman Will Clark stumbled a bit in front of a photographers' well and lunged near the railing for the ball, which appeared to clear his glove by an inch or two.
But a fan reached over the fence and deflected the ball just as it passed Clark's glove, and umpire Larry Young ruled fan interference, declaring Fielder out.
The Mariners are gone, but not forgotten. "They're still scary, and one through nine they have an unbelievable lineup," shortstop Gary DiSarcina said after the Angels' three-game sweep dropped Seattle 14 games out of first place Thursday night. "They can rip off 10 straight wins at any time."
Not now. DiSarcina noticed a difference in the Mariners of today and the ones who won the division title in 1997. "They kind of had blank looks on their faces. It's obvious they're struggling," DiSarcina said. "Those were looks we've never seen from them." . . . Second baseman Justin Baughman, who suffered a slight concussion and several facial cuts when he was hit by a line drive June 7, is sporting a dark goatee, but as soon as his cuts heal enough for him to shave, the goatee will be gone. "It's just not me," Baughman, 23, said. "I'm not a mean person. To me, it looks like a big, black mark, like someone took a magic marker to my face."
(1-0, 5.40 ERA)
TODD VAN POPPEL
(0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Edison Field, 1 p.m.
TV--Channel 11. Radio--KRLA (1110), XPRS (1090).
* Update--Van Poppel, touted as a pitching phenom when he was selected by Oakland in the first round of the 1990 draft, is trying to revive his career after being released by four organizations, including the Angels in 1997. The right-hander went 5-5 with a 3.72 earned-run average in 15 games for triple-A Oklahoma City, and scouts say he has better movement on his pitches. Van Poppel has not appeared in a big league game since Sept. 27, 1996, when he did not make it out of the first inning in a start for Detroit against Milwaukee. Sparks, who replaced Ken Hill in the rotation, won his first game in almost two years Monday night when he limited the Rangers to four runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings in an 8-5 victory.
* Tickets--(714) 663-9000.