TEMPE, Ariz. -- Manti Te’o is not alone.
Just ask Michael Roth, one of the Angels’ most decorated pitching prospects. Caught up in a phony relationship? Happened to him too.
Roth started the championship game of the College World Series in each of the last three years, with his South Carolina team winning in 2010 and 2011 before losing last year. After the Gamecocks won the 2010 title, Roth traveled to Maine to pitch in a summer league, where he got an unsolicited text message from an unfamiliar number.
“Are you the cute Michael I met?” read the message.
That started a stream of flattering texts and alluring phone calls from a woman Roth never had met, including the requisite visits that inevitably were canceled at the last minute.
Roth said he sensed something fishy within a few weeks. He played along for a year, in the process discovering that three of his college teammates also had been in touch with the same woman, who claimed her name was Hope Porter.
“As athletes, you’re a target in general,” Roth said Friday. “I think it’s part of the problem with a guy being a guy, when you’re younger. You see an attractive girl that tweets at you or texts at you or whatever, and you’re somewhat intrigued.
“It’s hard being a guy and not using your brain at times.”
So, as a fellow victim of the so-called “Catfish” phenomenon, could Roth sympathize with Te’o?
“To an extent,” Roth said, laughing. “You can’t fall in love over a phone. … I wasn’t sleeping with a phone, that’s for sure.”
The Angels selected Roth in the ninth round of last year’s draft. As a left-hander without an overpowering fastball, his best career option could come as a situational southpaw.
“I wouldn’t mind starting,” he said. “I also know, as a reliever, you can get up to the big leagues pretty quick.”
In addition to his pitching exploits, Roth is an accomplished blogger, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. If the Angels were to ask him to speak to their minor leaguers about Internet dangers, he has a pretty good idea of what he might say.
“Watch out for identity theft,” he said, “and fake people.”
The Angels got into the third inning Friday, when umpires called off a Cactus League game because of rain, wind, thunder, lightning and hail.
With rain on and off all morning, the Angels took no chances with wet grounds and scratched Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and all but one man from their starting lineup.
The one: catcher Hank Conger, who got his first chance to catch newcomer Joe Blanton in a game. Conger, who had been set to bat eighth in the original lineup, batted third in the game.
“I’m pretty sure I’m not taking Pujols’ spot,” Conger said, smiling.