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BASEBALL EXTRA | ANGEL REPORT : NOTES

Leyritz Is Catching On as a Defensive Player

May 15, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Jim Leyritz's offensive statistics have been eye-popping--the Angel catcher led the team in batting (.346), home runs (five) and runs batted in (26) before Wednesday night's game against Baltimore.

But even more startling, for those who saw Leyritz in spring training, has been his defensive work. Catching almost every day for the first time in his career, Leyritz has thrown out 10 of 20 base-stealers, a 50% success rate in a sport where 35% is considered above average.

"Yeah, I'm surprised by that," Manager Terry Collins said. "But the pitchers have been doing a good job holding runners on, and Jim has been getting rid of the ball quick and making accurate throws. His arm strength wasn't there in spring training, but it's much better now."

Leyritz threw out only one of 12 base-stealers in spring training A platoon player for seven years in New York, Leyritz said he was concentrating on preparations to play a full season and simply neglected his arm in spring training.

"I wanted to get ready so the day I left camp I was at 100%," Leyritz said. "I didn't work on throwing as much as I did lifting weights and getting my legs in shape.

"The fact I'm back there on an everyday basis has also helped. I don't have an Ivan Rodriguez arm, but I have a quick release, and if the pitchers give me a chance, I'll get guys out."

*

Leyritz did not start Wednesday's game because of cramps in his groin, which he experienced Tuesday night and said were the result of not having enough fluid in his system for the game against the White Sox.

The catcher said he lost 10 pounds in Monday night's 3-hour 44-minute game against Chicago and was so tired when he got home, he ignored his nightly ritual of drinking a gallon of water before going to bed.

Leyritz said he could have played against Baltimore, but Collins held him out for precautionary reasons. "I told Terry I've waited seven years to be an everyday player," Leyritz said. "I don't want to sit. Playing every day has obviously agreed with me."

*

Closer Troy Percival will make at least two more minor league rehabilitation appearances before being activated, one in Lake Elsinore tonight and one in Lancaster this weekend. "I've been antsy for 12 days," Percival said. . . . Some perspective: The Angels scored as many runs in the seventh inning Monday night (13) as they did in their five previous games. Shortstop Gary DiSarcina had as many doubles Tuesday night (three) as Garret Anderson has all season. . . . Collins was impressed with the way reliever Mike James got out of a one-out, second-and-third jam against Chicago on Tuesday night, striking out Mike Cameron and retiring Norberto Martin on a groundout to save an 8-7 Angel victory. "When they got to second and third, Mike got the ball and attacked," Collins said. "He really slammed the door."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

TONIGHT'S GAME

ANGELS' JASON DICKSON (5-1, 3.27 ERA) VS. ORIOLES' SCOTT KAMIENIECKI (2-1, 3.35 ERA)

Anaheim Stadium, 7 p.m. Radio--KTZN (710).

* Update--The Orioles' starting pitching trio of Jimmy Key, Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson have combined to go 18-2 with a 2.78 earned-run average this season, but the Angels will not have to face any of them in this two-game series. Still, Kamieniecki is no slouch. The right-hander, who was supposed to start in the bullpen but has emerged as Baltimore's No. 4 starter, has four quality starts in seven games and is coming off his best start of the season, a seven-inning, one-run, seven-hit no-decision against Seattle on Saturday. He has as many victories this season as he had in the 17 previous months combined. Dickson, the Angels' rookie-of-the-year candidate, gave up two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 7-2 victory over the Orioles in Camden Yards on May 5.

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