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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Not two hours before he was released by the Angels, Tom Candiotti stood in his locker and marveled at the cyclical aspects of the average baseball career.

For instance, he said, he came into the big leagues looking for a place to live and left the big leagues looking for a place to live.

In between, there was year-round stability, a home in the suburbs, a place to raise a family, rooms where the pictures weren't bolted to the walls.

Like many of the fringe roster players, Candiotti worked to nail down in-season living arrangements to the very end, and then didn't need them.

"It's strange because I probably haven't been in this boat in 15 years," he said. "All of a sudden, to be in flux like that, with a wife and a small baby, staying in a hotel, it is very odd. It doesn't matter when you're by yourself.

"It's funny how it works out that way. It's a lot easier then, the first time through. You're by yourself, you're a young guy and you can survive anything. The second time around you have people depending on you. But, what are you going to do?"

The Angels provide players with hotel money for seven days, per baseball's Basic Agreement, and all the information they need to find an apartment or house. Traveling secretary Tom Taylor met with players' wives to answer their questions.

"Eventually, it gets solved," Taylor said, "and usually it goes smoothly."

Early Sunday afternoon, only 36 hours before the season's first pitch, newcomer Kent Mercker sat in the dugout at Cal State Fullerton and discussed potential arrangements with a team official.

Former teammate Mark McGwire had recommended Seal Beach, and Mercker has an apartment in place there. Mercker's wife and two daughters won't arrive until June, however, and Mercker was wondering if he wouldn't stay in an Anaheim hotel until then.

"I'm used to it," Mercker said. "It's all a part of it. I could live in a hotel year-round, as long as it had a little kitchen. I can't eat out every night. But it's convenient.

"I've been through it too many times. It's never fun. I don't look forward to it. But it's not that big of a deal."

There is, of course, the alternative.

"You know what, I count my blessings," Candiotti said. "It's been 15 years since I had to deal with it. I'm fortunate. There are guys who every year are dealing with this."

Here are a handful who were faced with it this year:

Edgard Clemente

Clemente has two golden retrievers, which complicated a process that began four days before the end of spring training, when he was traded from the Colorado Rockies.

The female is Lady. The male, which spends hours and hours with Lady with little adult supervision, is Lucky.

"It's hard to find a place that accepts dogs," Clemente said.

He canceled arrangements in Denver and spent Thursday with agent Jeff Moorad and Orlando Cepeda Jr. They combed Orange County for an apartment manager who wouldn't mind the occasional billowing hairball mixed with spittle, and found a place in Anaheim Hills.

His wife, Rocio, is due to fly in from Puerto Rico on Tuesday, and the dogs are coming with her.

Clemente's life will be simpler for it.

Benji Gil

Gil, 27, already is a veteran of the final days of camp, when a guy's best friend is the team's traveling secretary.

"From my experiences in the past, I had to try to hold off finding a place," Gil said. "You don't want to be scrambling, but . . ."

But, the alternative is losing a security deposit, a waste no matter what the salary. Gil spent the final weekend--two games against the San Diego Padres and another at Cal State Fullerton--in Chula Vista, where his brother and sister have homes.

Gil will live in a hotel near the ballpark through the first homestand.

"For me, personally, that's not a big concern," he said. "All you can do is go about your business, go as hard as you can for as long as you can, and hopefully things will work out."

When the Angels return April 23 from their first road trip, Gil will need a more permanent residence. His wife, Carly, is expecting the couple's first child in four months. For that reason, he will attempt to find a place near teammates' families.

"That'll definitely be our choice," he said. "I don't want her to be by herself. She'd want someone close by."

Derrick Turnbow

The major league minimum salary, more than $200,000, sounded like a lot to Turnbow, who pitched in Class A last year. That is, until he was told what a hotel room might cost for a summer.

He'll take the seven free days, and maybe live the life of room service and pillow mints for a few more days. After that, he, too, will take an apartment.

"We'll see what happens, you know?" Turnbow said. "I'll go with the flow, I guess."

When you're 22, as Turnbow is, a couch and a blanket pretty much cover the necessities, and the blanket might be overkill.

Raised in Franklin, Tenn., Turnbow played three minor league seasons, two in the Appalachian League and one in the South Atlantic League, where the towns are Piedmont and Bluefield and Asheville and Martinsville.

Before spring training, Turnbow had never been west of the Mississippi River, and his arrival in Los Angeles completed his personal manifest destiny. Though he lacks some savvy, Turnbow is game to live alone and investigate the city.

"Now I've been everywhere," he said, smiling. "It's real nice out here. It's a lot different than Tennessee, but I like it a lot."

Last year, he lived alone for part of the season. "It was all right," he said. "It doesn't matter. You get used to it."

Adam Kennedy

A Riverside native traded to the Angels with little time left in spring training, Kennedy never considered moving back in with his parents.

It's a shame, really. The image of Kennedy back in the bedroom of his childhood, his glove under the mattress every night, is one baseball could use.

Instead, the bachelor will live in Irvine, 15 minutes from adult living to the ballpark.

"I like living by myself," he said. "There's a lot of stuff going on and it's nice to be by myself. Plus, I'm not big on making that long drive to Riverside after the game. Going to the game is OK, but those 30-plus miles afterward I don't like."

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