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Recovering Smith Shows His Stuff

February 17, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Manager Marcel Lachemann got his first look at closer Lee Smith and his surgically repaired right knee Friday and was "pleasantly surprised." Smith is an in-shape-looking 264 pounds, six below his normal playing weight, and threw 50 pitches off a mound "with amazing command," Lachemann said.

But Smith, who underwent surgery to repair a torn patella tendon Nov. 12, was unable to participate in most fielding drills and looked awkward and tentative in the few he did.

"It takes four to six months for a full recovery," Angel trainer Ned Bergert said. "He has a ways to go."

Smith, 38, believes he'll be ready for the regular season, "but I'm not going to rush it. I'm no doctor, but I know how I feel, and it feels pretty good. There's no pain when I throw, but it gets a little stiff."

Smith, who had 37 saves last season, was injured in a Nov. 11 hunting accident near his home in Castor, La. As he ran a group of hound dogs into a position to flush out a deer, Smith stepped in a hole, and his right kneecap smashed into a tree stump.

As he limped back to his truck, "I stepped off an embankment and went belly-up again," he said. "I think I did more damage when I fell the second time."

Smith was transported by ambulance to Shreveport, La., for surgery the next day and spent three weeks on crutches. He has been lifting weights and throwing for about two months.

Asked why he didn't inform the Angels of the injury until mid-December, Smith said, "I didn't think it was that serious." It is. The Angels are expecting to open the season with Troy Percival as their closer.


Friday's first workout for pitchers and catchers wasn't a half-hour old when the Angels had their first injury. Pitcher Julio Valera suffered acute lower back spasms and might have to sit out a few days, which shouldn't help his slim hopes of winning the fifth spot in the rotation. . . . A Walt Disney Co. production crew will be in Tempe, Ariz., next week to film Angel commercials to run during the season, yet another indication of the company's imminent takeover of the team. Disney's minority purchase of the Angels hinges on an agreement with Anaheim to renovate Anaheim Stadium. . . . Center fielder Jim Edmonds and right fielder Tim Salmon will be featured on Fox Network ads promoting 1996 telecasts.

Prospective color commentators Jeff Torborg, Fred Lynn and Tommy John are among the finalists to join play-by-play man Steve Physioc in the booth for Angel telecasts this season. . . . The Angels have held preliminary discussions with the agents for Edmonds, first baseman J.T. Snow, reliever Percival and left fielder Garret Anderson on potential multiyear deals. . . . The Angels will have a record 61 players, including 32 pitchers, in camp for the first full-squad workout Tuesday. "There's going to be a lot of 'Hey yous,' " pitcher Chuck Finley said. "They're going to have to tape names to the back of our helmets." . . . Lachemann said the Angels would likely open the season with 11 pitchers but only two catchers.

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