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Is Magrane Too Good for Angels? : Baseball: He pitches well again in 9-2 victory over Mariners, but management might deem him too expensive to keep.

September 15, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In only three weeks, starter Joe Magrane has made American League hitters look foolish, Angel vice president Whitey Herzog look like a genius, and pennant contenders look absolutely stupid for not claiming him on waivers.

Joseph David Magrane has done everything the Angels could possibly desire, putting on another riveting performance Tuesday night with his third consecutive victory, 9-2, over the Seattle Mariners before a crowd of 18,101 at Anaheim Stadium.

Magrane (3-1, 2.64 earned-run average), who was released by the St. Louis Cardinals and signed by Herzog, has been outstanding in his last four starts. He limited the Mariners to six hits in seven innings--ending the Angels' four-game losing streak--and has a 1.67 ERA in his last four starts.

"He continues to impress," Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said. "So far, he's shown us what we've wanted to see. He's a guy who could really help us next year, and every time he goes out there, it reinforces it."

But there could be a problem. Magrane could be pitching too well, and ruining his chance to stay, considering that he's eligible for free agency after the season.

While the Angels desperately could use another top-quality starter, and Rodgers believes it's imperative if they're going to be contenders, it might be financially impossible to keep him.

The news Tuesday from the two-day Angel organizational meetings was that the club will break even financially this year, but the front office was warned by ownership to brace themselves.

The Angels will have to slash their player payroll for 1994 perhaps as much as $8 million, a club official disclosed, because of potential lost TV revenue. This would require the Angels to reduce their $25 million payroll by more than 20%, leaving them with the lowest payroll in the newly realigned American League West.

So, unless Magrane is willing to sign an inexpensive one-year contract, management can only say: "Thanks for the memories, big guy."

Magrane, 30, who won 18 games in 1989 for Herzog in St. Louis, is seeking at least a three-year guaranteed contract, according to his agent, Dennis Gilbert.

"I'm confident I've erased any doubts or questions clubs will have about the condition of my arm," said Magrane, who underwent surgery in 1991.

One of the few players who knows he will be back is rookie-of-the-year candidate Tim Salmon. Starting as a designated hitter for the first time, Salmon went three for four with two doubles, setting the Angel rookie record of 35 doubles in a season. The record had stood since 1962, accomplished by Rodgers.

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