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Angels Lead by Three Games, but They Are Not All Happy

May 31, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angel infielder Gary Gaetti didn't want it to turn out like this, but the longer he spoke after the Angels' 7-5 victory Sunday over the Baltimore Orioles, the easier the words spilled out of his mouth.

Tormented by his lack of playing time, Gaetti revealed the frustration and bitterness that has eaten away at him.

"It's hard to relax and play baseball when you're being so scrutinized by everybody," said Gaetti. "The fans won't even let you up for air. Do you know how difficult it is to perform in that situation?

"I don't think I've been able to shake what happened last year, but they don't give me that opportunity, either. Somehow, I've got to prove to somebody that (1992) was just a freak (year).

"But I can't prove it to them. They won't let me. I mean, what am I now, J.T. (Snow's) caddie?"

Gaetti, starting at first base because of Snow's batting slump, for at least a day looked like the old Gary Gaetti. You remember the guy? The one who was a two-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and who received a four-year, $11-million free-agent contract from the Angels.

Gaetti went two for three with a double and drove in his first run at Anaheim Stadium since last October in the Angels' seven-run second inning. It was his first extra-base hit since April 10 and his first RBI since May 3.

While Gaetti had no intention of discussing his future with the Angels, which may end in another week, he found himself discussing the pain and tribulations he has suffered this season.

"There's nothing to prove to the Angels," Gaetti said, "I think they already have their minds made up. That's why what I did today really meant nothing in their minds. It was just a win."

The Angels have to make a decision in six days when they're expected to activate third baseman Kelly Gruber from the disabled list June 5, and three players in the clubhouse Sunday know their lives could soon change.

Gaetti believes he probably will be released, with the Angels eating about $4.5 million that remains on his contract.

Third baseman Rene Gonzales, who has been battling knee problems but started the second-inning outburst with a one-out double, believes it's unfair if he's moved to the bench. And catcher Ron Tingley, who started Sunday for the first time since last season and went two for three with a two-out single in the second inning, prays that he's not the one to go.

Angel Manager Buck Rodgers met with vice president Whitey Herzog before the game to discuss possible personnel moves. Rodgers won't disclose who will go to make room for Gruber, but he did say that they Angels will continue to keep three catchers.

This leaves Gaetti as the candidate to be released, unless they place catcher John Orton or someone else on the disabled list. Gaetti rarely is used these days, and Rodgers said it has been difficult finding a role for him.

"I don't blame Buck for making the lineup out like he does," Gaetti said. "You have a winning combination, so you play it.

"The thing I don't understand is that the team is playing well, so why make changes? I think this has a chance to hurt us. It's been looming over our heads for awhile now."

The Angels (27-20) have not shown any signs of distraction lately, winning their fourth consecutive game with their first sweep of the Orioles since 1978. The Angels lead the American League West by three games, their largest margin since Oct. 5, 1986, when they won the division.

The Angels' seven runs in the second inning, their largest since Sept. 23, 1991, was enough to provide starter Chuck Finley his fifth victory of the season. Finley, who has been bothered by a stiff neck the last couple of days, was able to pitch only five innings, but left the game with a 7-3 lead.

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