Angels catcher Hank Conger’s debate leads to error


If you’re an Angels catcher, you’d prefer not to be mentioned in the same sentence with Josh Paul, but that’s where Hank Conger found himself in the third inning Sunday night.

Angels starter Ervin Santana struck out Dodgers leadoff batter Tony Gwynn Jr. on a slider in the dirt to open the inning. Conger caught the ball on a hop and thought he applied a tag to Gwynn, who was breaking for first base.

But instead of throwing to first for the sure out, Conger pleaded with umpire Dan Iassogna, who signaled safe as Gwynn ran to first. Conger was charged with an error, and replays were inconclusive as to whether he applied a tag.

“It was kind of a boneheaded thing on my part,” Conger said. “I thought I heard, ‘Yes, yes,’ and he was throwing up the safe sign. It was dumb on my part.”


Gwynn stole second as Rafael Furcal struck out and took third on Andre Ethier’s groundout, but he was stranded when Matt Kemp flied to the warning track in center.

Conger got an earful from Manager Mike Scioscia but was spared the indignity of going down with Paul in Angels’ infamy.

Paul was a seldom-used, .189-hitting reserve catcher in 2005 who entered Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Chicago White Sox in the eighth inning.

With the score tied, 1-1, and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Kelvim Escobar struck out A.J. Pierzynski on a pitch in the dirt, appearing to send the game into extra innings.

Umpire Doug Eddings ruled Paul trapped the pitch, but the catcher was so sure he caught it in the air he rolled the ball to the mound and jogged to the dugout as Pierzynski ran to first.

Pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna stole second and scored on Joe Crede’s double for a 2-1 victory, and the White Sox won the next three games in Anaheim to win the series.

“You have to have the field presence to know that the umpire was not calling him out,” Scioscia said of Conger. “Every incident that happens on the field, you hope they learn from it.”

Deal or no deal

General Manager Tony Reagins said in a recent radio interview that the Angels can add to their already bloated $141-million payroll if they can acquire an impact player before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.


But Scioscia, who has as much clout as any manager in baseball, did not seem too eager to make a deal if it means putting another dent in the team’s relatively thin minor league system, and especially if it would cost the organization top prospect Mike Trout.

“I think the potential for improvement in this team is in this clubhouse, and hopefully we’ll see that,” Scioscia said. “Just look at what a difference Vernon Wells can make when he’s swinging the bat like he is.

“A lot of guys have been moved out of this organization in deals, and Tony is really cognizant of our high-end talent.”

Short hops

Right fielder Torii Hunter (bruised left hand) did not start for the second straight game Sunday, but he entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth and probably will start Monday night against Detroit. … C.J. Cron, the Angels’ first-round pick in the June draft, hit his first professional home run for Orem, Utah, Sunday.