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Angels Fall All Around

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Angels on Tuesday lost their starting shortstop for an additional three to four months, traded a third baseman who was credited with infusing the team with a new attitude, released a reliever who was expected to be a key member of the bullpen and released a utility infielder.

As they say around these parts: Just another day in Angel camp.

The whirlwind news day began with a devastating development--shortstop Gary DiSarcina, who has missed all of spring training because of a broken bone in his left forearm, will undergo surgery to have a plate screwed into the bone to allow for proper healing. He will be out at least until the All-Star break.

The Angels, in need of shortstop depth, traded ultra-intense third baseman Dave Hollins to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor league infielder Tomas Perez, a light-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop-second baseman who will report to the Angels’ triple-A team at Edmonton.

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The Angels agreed to pay $1.3 million of Hollins’ $2.4-million contract and will hand the third base job to Troy Glaus, who struggled offensively last season but is a far more dependable fielder than Hollins. Andy Sheets, acquired in a trade from San Diego on Monday, will open at shortstop.

Then came another stunner: Veteran reliever Rich DeLucia, who had a 4.27 earned-run average and three saves in 61 appearances as a setup man last season, was released one day before the Angels would have been required to pay his entire $700,000 salary.

The final move was expected--utility infielder Andy Stankiewicz was released from his minor league contract.

Angel second baseman Randy Velarde may have best described the feeling on this topsy-turvy Tuesday: “You better stay in the foxhole, or you’re gonna get shot.”

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Added Manager Terry Collins: “It’s been pretty much of a downer the last 24 hours.”

The extended loss of DiSarcina, who was struck by a fungo bat Feb. 21, was the biggest blow. The team’s most valuable player in 1998, DiSarcina was hoping to have his cast removed and resume workouts this week, but an exam showed the broken bone was not completely healed. It was determined that surgery would be the best course of action.

“It’s a gut shot,” General Manager Bill Bavasi said. “It ain’t easy being an Angel. But we’re just going to have to tough it out.”

They’ll have to do it without one of their toughest players, Hollins, who brought grit and fire to the team with his .288 average, 16 homers, 85 runs batted in and 101 runs in 1997 but was reduced to a spare part in 1999.

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The Angels decided late Monday night that Glaus, who is batting .426 with three homers and 18 RBIs this spring, will start at third. With Garret Anderson and Todd Greene available as designated hitters and Hollins unwilling to accept a reserve role, the Angels felt it was best to trade Hollins.

“I appreciate that Dave is an honest guy, and he made it real clear that he doesn’t have the temperament to sit on the bench, that he’s not a cheerleader, and I believe him,” Bavasi said. “Whatever offense Dave could bring, we felt Troy’s superior defense would outweigh that.”

Many thought Hollins was virtually untradable because of his hefty contract and the fact he was coming off rotator cuff surgery in 1998, but he essentially played his way onto the market--and off the Angels--with a two-homer, six-RBI game Thursday and several fine defensive plays this past week. Interest in Hollins perked up, and Bavasi found a taker in Toronto, where Hollins will be reunited with Jim Fregosi, his former manager with the Philadelphia Phillies, and will split time between DH and third base.

“There are a lot of pluses--I’ll be close to my home and playing for my old manager,” said Hollins, who lives in Orchard Park, N.Y. “Anything is better than sitting for me. They decided to go with Troy at third and there was nowhere for me to play. Bill Bavasi did me a favor, and I appreciate that.”

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Bavasi didn’t do DeLucia any favors. The right-hander struggled this spring with a 7.27 ERA in 8 2/3 innings but figured he had the team made based on his 1998 showing.

“I’m stunned,” DeLucia said. “They had enough confidence in me to use me 61 times last year--I don’t know who they’re going to use 61 times this year.”

Collins said radar-gun readings on DeLucia have been down all spring--he wouldn’t say by how much--and that the Angels were concerned about DeLucia’s health. DeLucia had an aneurysm removed from his right arm in 1997 but did not appear to suffer any effects from the surgery in 1998.

“There’s nothing wrong with me, and they never had me undergo any medical tests, but they’re afraid of my health,” DeLucia said. “Go figure.”

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