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Holtz Puts His Best Foot Forward

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mike Holtz doesn’t know Luis Tiant, but the Angel reliever bid farewell to him this spring--not the actual Cuban pitcher with the Fu Manchu, but his funky motion.

The left-hander adopted a trademark Tiant windup, which features the back to the batter, the head looking toward center field and an exaggerated leg kick, a few years ago, using it occasionally as a tool for deception.

Problem was, Holtz fooled himself as much as the hitters. The more he used that motion, the less control he had of his curveball, the pitch that enabled him to go 3-4 with a 3.32 earned-run average in 66 games for the Angels in 1997.

But after a Luis-less, three-inning scoreless stint against Texas in the final series of 1999, Holtz, who spent the last two seasons bouncing between triple A and the big leagues, will compete for the left-handed relief spot with a more conventional windup.

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“With the Tiant style, I didn’t have control from one outing to the next,” Holtz said. “I was stressing deception more than putting the ball where I want to. I can control the breaking ball better with a more normal motion, so I went back to keeping my eye on the glove.”

Having lost Mike Magnante to Oakland, there is a three-man battle for the left-handed relief spot among Holtz, Greg Cadaret and Juan Alvarez. Cadaret is the most experienced, but Holtz, with his fastball and a variety of curves, has the potential to be the most effective. The only questions concern confidence and consistency.

“I felt I couldn’t use my fastball against left-handers, and you can’t pitch with one pitch in this league,” Holtz said. “I threw the breaker so much, I lost the feel and the bite to it. But I feel with this new delivery, I’ll get that back.”

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And you wonder why trade rumors rarely turn to reality? The Angels began talks with the Yankees, hoping to trade Jim Edmonds for pitcher Ramiro Mendoza. When it became apparent that the Yankees were reluctant to trade Mendoza, the Angels began pursuing outfielder Ricky Ledee and Alfonso Soriano, a hot shortstop prospect whom the Yankees would rather not give up.

Then there was a report out of New York on Monday that the Yankees have asked the Angels for Darin Erstad, whom the Angels have little interest in trading. So now both teams appear to be seeking players the other team has little interest in trading. So don’t be surprised if there is no trade.

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Ken Hill and Ramon Ortiz will start today’s intrasquad game, and Scott Schoeneweis will start Wednesday night’s exhibition game against Arizona State. . . . Erstad, recovering from an inflamed shoulder, is swinging the bat easily and is making progress throwing . . . Tim Salmon missed practice Monday to attend the funeral of his grandmother in Texas. He is expected to return today.


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