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Angel Notebook : Concepcion Is Trying to Prove Reds Wrong

March 07, 1989|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

"I got the feeling that Davey sort of wanted to play just to get the 20 years," Rose said, disbelief in his voice.

"I told him, 'Davey, you don't want to play just to get 20. If you go through another year like the last one, you're going to hurt your Hall of Fame chances. Throw two sub-.200 seasons at the voters and that's going to really hurt you. You had a Hall of Fame career, why do you want to hang around and be a utility player for?' "

Of course, Rose didn't exactly go quietly, either.

"None of wants to go out when we're hitting .320, I guess," he said.

And in 1987, Concepcion was right there. In his first full season as the Reds' utility infielder, he batted .319, including .333 as a pinch-hitter, and filled in at every infield position.

"Two years ago, he was the best utility player in baseball," Rose said. "He played all four infield positions flawlessly, he hit .319.

"But last year, he didn't dominate (left-handed pitching) like he'd done in the past. Usually, Davey would go two for four against a left-hander. But hitting .198, he didn't dominate anyone."

Concepcion contends that he can still hit, pointing to the .290 average he had while playing in Venezuela last winter. The .198 average last summer, he says, was caused largely by a bum shoulder.

The Venezuelan winter leagues turned out to be Concepcion's Angel connection. Angel official Preston Gomez scouted a couple of Concepcion's games there and laid the groundwork for the veteran's tryout this spring.

Gomez also offered a suggestion. By the opening of training camp, he said, he wanted to see less of Concepcion. Maybe 15 pounds less. Through injury, inactivity and basic indifference, Concepcion ballooned into a Big Ex-Red Machine.

Since then, Gomez said, Concepcion "has lost about 10 or 12 pounds. He needs to go a little bit more."

Concepcion, however, insists that he was never all that fat, that his weight has hovered around 200 for years and that Gomez has gone a little overboard with this overweight business.

"Yeah, Preston wants me to lose weight," Concepcion said, laughing. "He remembers when I was 180. I was 180 a long time ago.

"The last few years, I've been 200 and maybe last year, I was 203 or 204. I was never more than three or four pounds over that."

Rose enters the debate.

"The scales will tell you he didn't (gain weight)," Rose said. "Compared to how he was three years ago, he weighed about the same. But, it's distributed differently now.

"He didn't run as good last year and had to strictly rely on his experience to get by. . . . We felt he lost a lot of movement. I hope he gets it back."

Meanwhile, back in Plant City, Rose extends an olive branch Concepcion's way.

"There's no bitterness here," Rose said. "Davey meant a lot to Cincinnati baseball. He was our captain. I don't think anybody in our clubhouse would say anything negative about Davey Concepcion.

"But, in truth, he wasn't helping us anymore. Sometimes star players, including myself, don't want to hear that.

"I hope he does well for California. The last thing I want him to do is flop or get cut over there."

Finally, that's something both Rose and Concepcion can agree on.

Angel Notes

On and off the field, the Angels took care of business Monday. First off, Vice President Mike Port ended the club's longstanding stalemate with Devon White by signing the center fielder to a one-year contract, believed to be worth about $325,000, plus incentives. Then, Doug Rader and Co. went out and defeated the Chicago Cubs, 6-4, at Ho Ho Kam Park. It was the Angels' first victory of the spring, improving their record to 1-3.

Kirk McCaskill, making his first start of the spring, was the winning pitcher, yielding one hit and one run, unearned, in three innings. He struck out three and walked one. . . . Lance Parrish made his first appearance at catcher for the Angels. At the plate, he went two for two, but behind the plate, he went zero for two attempting to throw out base stealers. "He didn't look too good on the stolen bases," Rader acknowledged, "but he's still working on mechanics. It'll come." . . . Dave Concepcion started and played all nine innings at second base, mainly because Johnny Ray's hamstring injury is healing slowly. Concepcion went hitless in two at-bats and dropped a pop fly along the right-field line for an error.

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