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Edmonds Is Low-Key as Stats Go Sky High

August 08, 1995|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Jim Edmonds sat in front of his cubicle at the Angels' Arizona spring-training facility last April and said, "If I hit 15 homers this season, I'll be very happy."

He slugged No. 23 Monday as the Angels beat the Rangers, 9-2, which means he's what . . . delighted and heading for ecstatic. And if he continues at this pace and finishes with 35, he'll be enraptured?

Well, probably not.

These days, Edmonds likes to describe his exploits in the most banal of terms, offering mostly a Gary Cooper-like: "I was just trying to do my job."

Edmonds has done more than shove a bunch of teammates around the bases and across the plate--he is tied for second in the league in runs batted in with 83--he also has made quite a few spectacular catches.

And he added a fine throw to the 1995 team highlight film in the second inning Monday.

The Rangers had Mickey Tettleton on third and Rusty Greer on second with one out when Luis Ortiz hit a drive into the gap in left-center. Edmonds sprinted in front of left fielder Garret Anderson, stretching out to make the catch.

Both runners tagged and Edmonds heaved a strike toward third base before sprawling face-first on the grass. Tony Phillips put the tag on Greer before Tettleton crossed the plate, according to plate umpire Chuck Meriwether, for an inning-ending double play that preserved the Angels' 3-0 lead.

"Home runs are great," Manager Marcel Lachemann said, "but it's important to play good defense. That Edmonds play was the turning point of the game. Instead of them scoring a run and having a runner at third with two out, we're out of the inning."

Phillips, a 12-year veteran, said he had never seen an outfield assist in that situation that kept the run from scoring.

"Surprised?" Phillips repeated. "I'm not surprised at anything these kids can do anymore. I knew he could hit, but I had no idea he had this kind of power. He can throw, too. He's can do it all."

Edmonds had a typically workmanlike narrative of the events in the second inning.

"I had to go so far for the ball, I wasn't really surprised when he tried to take third," he said. "Garret yelled, 'Third,' and I just threw the ball as hard as I could. I didn't have time to see what was happening. I just tried to make a good throw."

Edmonds says he gets a great deal of satisfaction from playing good defense and allows that "you can be a great hitter, but if you're not a good fielder, you'll never be recognized as a great player."

This season, his defensive prowess has been overshadowed by his wont to turn fastballs into souvenirs. He worked hard in the weight room during the off-season, hoping to dispel the doubts about his potential for power.

During the season, Edmonds has lost 20 pounds of that bulk, but his bat speed clearly hasn't dropped off. He has hit in 10 of the last 11 games and is batting .374 in the last 23 games with 32 runs scored, eight doubles, nine homers and 28 RBIs. Twenty-five times this season, he has driven in two or more runs.

All of which elicits little enthusiasm from Edmonds.

"We've played just a little more than half of the season and there's a long way to go," he said. "I'm just happy to be here."

Figures. Not even delighted or blissful or enchanted or . . .

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