Hank Conger makes an immediate impact for Angels

Hank Conger wasn’t budging as the Angels’ catcher.

At least not in the first inning Saturday. Conger withstood a home-plate collision with Baltimore’s Nick Markakis, holding on to right fielder Torii Hunter’s strong two-hop throw to record the out.

It was a solid start to Conger’s first game with the Angels since July 16. He had hit .300 with five home runs and 26 runs batted in in 27 minor league games since his demotion, but his return to the major leagues was also precipitated by improvement behind the plate.

Conger worked with triple-A Salt Lake Manager Keith Johnson on his throws to second base, which had been bouncing in front of the base or tailing high and away from it. Conger said his problems were the result of a release-point issue, “a matter of me finishing my throws, not trying to rush it.”

Conger conceded he had been pressing when the Angels sent him back to the minor leagues.

“I know what I’m capable of,” he said. “Sometimes, I get in the way of myself mentally. I tend to be a little hard on myself. I need to stay clear-headed, go out and play.”

Starting over


More than four years later, Jerome Williams can replace a painful memory with a pleasant one.

His last pitch as a major league starter came May 15, 2007, when he threw a slider to Andruw Jones that didn’t slide, the slugger hitting a bloop single to drive in run.

That was the least of Williams’ worries. Then pitching for the Washington Nationals, the right-hander felt a pulling sensation in his pitching shoulder and immediately left the game in the third inning.

He went on the disabled list, triggering a journey that would lead to stints with several minor league teams, a handful of overseas organizations and two independent leagues before making his next major league start Sunday for the Angels against Baltimore.

“I thought when I was coming up that I would stay for good,” said Williams, a former first-round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants whose career has been beset by injuries and weight problems, “but that changed in a heartbeat.”

After signing a minor league contract with the Angels in June, Williams went 7-2 with a 3.91 earned-run average for Salt Lake, including a complete-game victory last week against Omaha. Pitching out of the bullpen, he gave up two hits but no runs in two-thirds of an inning Wednesday in his Angels debut.

A strong performance against the Orioles could net Williams, 29, his first major league victory since 2005 and reward his decision not to quit the game during his extended detour.

“You can’t give up on something that you love to do,” Williams said.

Lots of Trout

A day after he started in right field, Mike Trout started in left, forcing Vernon Wells to the bench.

Trout could be a starting-lineup staple in the 20-year-old rookie’s second stint with the Angels.

“He’s definitely a guy we’re going to take a look at and see if he can help us push our offense a little further along,” Manager Mike Scioscia said.