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Angels send Hank Conger to Astros, get a reliever from Rays

Angels send Hank Conger to Astros, get a reliever from Rays
Angels catcher Hank Conger hits a single during a game against the Seattle Mariners in April. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto checked two items off his off-season to-do list Wednesday, acquiring a veteran left-handed reliever and the type of young, cost-controlled starting pitcher he covets.

Within two hours of trading backup catcher Hank Conger to Houston for triple-A right-hander Nick Tropeano and triple-A catcher Carlos Perez, the Angels acquired reliever Cesar Ramos from Tampa Bay for Class-A reliever Mark Sappington.

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Ramos, 30, should give the bullpen the effective left-hander it has lacked for years. Dipoto said Tropeano, 24, could compete for a rotation spot next spring and Perez, 24, will compete for the backup spot behind Chris Iannetta.

"I view this as a really positive day for the organization," Dipoto said. "We've added a lot of depth and quality to the major league team and beyond. We're excited to add Cesar to a decidedly right-handed bullpen mix."

Ramos, a former Long Beach State teammate of Angels ace Jered Weaver, filled a utility role last season, when he was 2-6 with a 3.70 earned-run average in 43 games, striking out 66 and walking 39 in 82 2/3 innings. He had a 2.92 ERA in 52 1/3 innings as a reliever and a 5.04 ERA in 30 1/3 innings as a starter.

Ramos, who combines a 91-mph fastball with a slider, curve and changeup, was particularly effective in July and August, when he had a 1.56 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. He had 13 relief outings of two innings or more and has held left-handers to a .241 average in his career.

"He's a one-inning guy, he's a multiple-inning guy, he's a get-a-left-hander-out guy … he's done just about everything," Dipoto said. "We see him as a bullpen guy who can neutralize left-handers."

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Tropeano, who combines a sinking 91-mph fastball with a good changeup and curve, was 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA at Oklahoma City last season, striking out 120 and walking 33 in 124 2/3 innings. He was 1-3 with a 4.57 ERA in three starts with the Astros.

With Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Tyler Skaggs, who will sit out 2015 because of elbow surgery, and Tropeano, "We feel like we're really starting to build up a good group of young starting pitchers," Dipoto said. "Nick improves our depth now and in the future."

Perez hit .259 with six home runs and 34 runs batted in for Oklahoma City and has thrown out 183 of 547 (33%) of base stealers in seven minor league seasons.

Conger, a first-round pick out of Huntington Beach High in 2006, spent his entire nine-year professional career with the Angels, reaching the big leagues in 2010 but spending most of the last three years as Iannetta's backup. He will back up Jason Castro in Houston.

"I grew up in the Angels organization and they've taken care of me, so it's tough to say goodbye," Conger said. "But at same time, I'm really excited. I realize it's a rarity to play with one team for the rest of your life. That was the original dream. But I look at this as a fresh start."

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