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Langston's Status Makes Angels' Day

Baseball: Chance for victory is rained out, but pitcher's condition apparently isn't serious.


BOSTON — Angel Manager Terry Collins came to Fenway Park fearing the worst Thursday and, for a change, he didn't get it.

Sure, the sky virtually fell on the Angels, who had a 2-0 lead and were three outs away from an official victory over the Boston Red Sox when the game was called because of rain in the middle of the fifth inning.

But the dark clouds hovering over pitcher Mark Langston have apparently dissipated.

Tests on Langston's inflamed elbow Thursday revealed no obvious bone chips and no bone, ligament or muscle damage, and the left-hander will rejoin the Angels in Chicago this weekend.

Langston, who will be replaced in the rotation Sunday by Shigetoshi Hasegawa, was placed on a new anti-inflammatory medication, and he will try to throw next week.

No timetable has been set for Langston's return, "but we have no plans to disable him," Collins said.

There's still a possibility Langston could have a bone spur or a bone irregularity that could be irritating a tendon or ligament, both of which could require surgery and at least a three-week absence.

"But it's not a serious thing," Collins said. "I was conditioned for something worse, because knowing the competitor he is, he'll normally pitch through [pain]. But when Mark tells you his elbow is bothering him, you know it could be serious."

Langston's setback means Hasegawa will get another shot at starting, something the Japanese right-hander has not done since April 5, when he was cuffed around for five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 7-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Hasegawa gave up a total of one run and three hits in his last five relief appearances, but for the junk-ball specialist to be successful as a starter, he might need a little assistance from American League umpires.

"To be candid, he needs to have the borderline pitch be a strike," Collins said. "If he can get someone to give him that pitch, he can be effective. So far he hasn't gotten it."

Collins is referring to those pitches that may be an inch or two off the inside or outside corners but are called strikes because pitchers--especially those named Maddux or Glavine or Key--are consistently hitting those spots.

"It's always been that way for pitchers," Angel catcher Jim Leyritz said. "It's reputation. If they see a guy is around the plate consistently, eventually they'll give them a little more. Guys like Key and Glavine get those pitches.

"But this is the first time around the league for Shige and they're going to test him like any other rookie. But once he establishes himself, they'll start giving him the benefit of the doubt. He hasn't been around the plate long enough--it takes awhile to get that reputation--but I think he's gotten better every time out."

When Hasegawa is not hitting his spots and changing speeds effectively, he is forced to come down the middle of the plate more often, and he has been hit hard at times, giving up four homers in 15 1/3 innings already.

"I'm having problems hitting spots consistently, and I've been too careful with my fastball," Hasegawa said. "I have to pitch the same style I used in Japan. But I feel I'm better now. I'm not afraid of American batters."

Hasegawa has tried not to let umpires affect him.

"If I were an umpire I would do the same thing because I'm a newcomer here, I'm a rookie," Hasegawa said. "If a strike was called a ball I would be upset. It's the pitch that can be called either a strike or a ball that I need."

Hasegawa said he's "excited" about facing Chicago's Albert Belle and Frank Thomas on Sunday, and he is not intimidated by two of baseball's most feared hitters. But a pack of American journalists could strike fear into the heart of the pitcher.

"My only problem is communicating with the American media," said Hasegawa, whose English seems to be improving every week. "If they just have one or two questions, I'm OK, but when you're starting they usually ask a lot more questions . . . so I hope an interpreter is there."

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