PALM SPRINGS — Angels Stadium was witness to another massive home run by the Angels' massive rookie outfielder, Dante Bichette, Saturday.
This one, Bichette's second in as many days, was a fourth-inning grand slam off the Seattle Mariners' Mark Langston, a feat that brought the right-field bleacherites to their feet for a simple but rousing chorus as Bichette trotted out to his position in the top of the fifth:
\o7 "Dante's Gonna Stay."\f7
Too bad baseball rosters aren't assembled by popular vote.
By Angel Manager Doug Rader's admission, Bichette has done everything he has had to do this spring. Hit for average? Bichette is batting .349. Hit for power? His four home runs lead the Angels. Drive in runs? Bichette and Devon White share the club lead in that department with 13 runs batted in apiece.
Bichette is even fielding, which had been a major blemish on his scouting report. In the sixth inning Saturday, Bichette raced back to the wall to pick off, backhanded, a drive by Greg Briley, turning a potential double into a long sacrifice fly.
All this . . . and it still might not be enough to earn him a roster spot on opening day.
Ask Rader about Bichette's bid to break into the Angels' congested outfield alignment and he'll respond with a mock grimace. "Why do you got to bring that up?" he says.
Selecting an outfield was supposed to have been the least of Rader's worries. White, Chili Davis and Claudell Washington were going to play every day. Tony Armas, who hit 13 home runs as a reserve in 1988, was going to back them up. A done deal.
Bichette, coming into camp with the one-year-away tag, has cramped Rader's style, no doubt, but the manager continues to hold to his original line of thinking.
"I'm very much against players going into spring training and making the club out of the blue," Rader said. "Spring training is a very difficult place to accurately appraise talent. The mistakes you can make outweigh the correct guesses, 110-1.
" . . . When you look at what (Bichette) did at triple-A last year, there certainly was no indication that he could have a spring like this. It's like he's gone from a prospect to a can't-miss prospect overnight.
"I want to make it clear he's not out of the picture. But based on what he did at Edmonton last year, he still needs to have a solid year there."
Last year, at age 24, Bichette batted .267 with 14 home runs and 81 RBIs in 132 games. "And that's in a hitter's league," Rader noted.
Bichette, not surprisingly, is not particularly keen on spending another summer north of border and south of the major leagues.
"It would be a big disappointment, going back to Edmonton," Bichette said. "That would mean I'd been at Edmonton three years in a row. It would seem like I'm going nowhere."
Bichette said he would take Anaheim any day, even if it means sitting on the bench most days. "I've looked at both sides of it and being in the big leagues outweighs playing every day in Edmonton."
The Angels evened their record at 8-8 with a 7-6 victory over Seattle. The Angels totaled 10 hits, including Dante Bichette's grand slam and a two-run home run by Devon White. White went two-for-four to raise his batting average to .465. "He's going to be tired when this year's over," Angel Manager Doug Rader said, "because I can't see playing anybody out there but him." . . . Tony Armas intrepidly ventured out to first base for Round 2, after committing two errors in one play during Round 1. Armas' Saturday line: no errors, two slick plays, including a diving stop of a sharp grounder by Harold Reynolds. . . . Seattle pitcher Mark Langston was forced out of the game after taking a Dick Schofield line drive off his right ankle. Preliminary X-rays showed no fracture and Langston limped away with a bad bruise.