Matt Walbeck has shown he can catch. He has thrown out 14 of 31 base stealers, a 45% success rate that ranks third in the American League behind noted Texas gunslinger Ivan Rodriguez and Tampa Bay’s Mike DiFelice, and Angel pitchers have combined for a 3.49 earned-run average with Walbeck behind the plate.
He has shown he can hit. A .235 hitter before this season, Walbeck is batting .278 with two homers and 12 RBIs, four of which have tied the score or given the Angels a lead.
And as soon as Todd Greene’s shoulder is sound enough for him to return to Anaheim, Walbeck will show he is the consummate team player, accepting a reduced role without so much as a hint of bitterness.
“I’m in no position to . . . moan and haven’t been for some time,” Walbeck, 28, said. “When Todd comes back, he’ll be the catcher. But I’m sure I’ll have a place on the team. Certainly, I’ve showed I can play.”
Funny what the lost-and-found bin can produce. The Angels lost Greene in spring training but found Walbeck, the Detroit Tiger castoff who was acquired with Phil Nevin last winter for minor league relief pitcher Nick Skuse.
The Tigers told Walbeck he wasn’t in their plans and had traded him as a favor.
But with a little seasoning from Joe Maddon, who coaches Angel catchers, Walbeck has become something of a force.
“Joe has helped me tremendously,” said Walbeck, who tormented the Tigers with a three-run double in Friday night’s 5-3 Angel victory.
“We haven’t really changed anything, but we’re doing what works best for me. He’s taken a lot of doubt out of my mind. When a ball bounces in the dirt or a guy tries to steal, I trust my instincts.”
So much so that Walbeck now hopes opponents run on him.
“No question, that’s a good feeling,” Walbeck said. “You can’t trick yourself into thinking you want them to run--you have to have that confidence. My arm feels as good now as it ever has.”
When second baseman Randy Velarde returns to the lineup--he will be activated this week--the Angels will try to ease the burden on his surgically rebuilt elbow by limiting his long throws.
Manager Terry Collins said shortstop Gary DiSarcina will be the relay man for balls hit into the right-center field gap, and first basemen Cecil Fielder and Darin Erstad will cut off throws from the right-field corner.
“I’ll have to ask for a raise, man,” DiSarcina joked.
Velarde, who missed the entire 1997 season, isn’t crazy about the idea.
“I’m not going to let him take care of my business,” he said of DiSarcina.
“If that’s the way Terry wants to do it, I’ll deal with it, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If the outfielder overthrows the cutoff man I’m going to have to make the play, so I’ve got to be ready.”
* Opponent--Chicago White Sox, two games.
* Site--Comiskey Park, Chicago.
* Tonight--5 p.m. PDT.
* Radio--KRLA (1110), XPRS (1090).
* Records--Angels 19-16, White Sox 14-20.
* Record vs. White Sox--2-2.
ANGELS’ OMAR OLIVARES (1-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. WHITE SOX’S SCOTT EYRE (1-4, 4.84 ERA)
* Update--The White Sox were set to recall former UCLA pitcher Jim Parque from triple-A Calgary Sunday to replace closer Matt Karchner, who was put on the disabled list Saturday because of a hernia. But after throwing six innings Friday night, Parque complained of groin pain. His injury? Right, a hernia. White Sox trainer Herm Schneider told the Chicago Tribune he had never seen a single hernia in 20 years on the job, but Monday, both pitchers underwent hernia operations in Chicago. Replacing Karchner on the roster is Larry Casian, former Cal State Fullerton left-hander who was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA at Calgary.
Wednesday, 5 p.m.--Allen Watson (2-3, 6.41) vs. Mike Sirotka (5-2, 3.73).