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BASEBALL EXTRA | ANGEL REPORT : NOTES

Bullpen Is Heating Up Again

May 25, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

It was like the return of an old friend Saturday, Mike James pitching the eighth inning and Troy Percival the ninth inning of the Angels' 3-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, the first time this season the relievers have combined for a successful setup and save.

Informed of this news, Percival joked: "It's about time [James] got busy. Is he trying?"

Percival, of course, is the reason the Angels have not been able to employ their late-inning relief formula--the closer missed 5 1/2 weeks of the season because of a nerve problem in his shoulder, and has only been back a week.

But with Percival appearing strong--his fastball was consistently in the 95-mph range Saturday--the bullpen should be that much stronger.

"The way we've been hitting, they don't need us every day," Percival said. "But in a crunch game like today's, it's definitely important for both of us--and the whole bullpen--to click."

Percival has overhauled his delivery in an effort to reduce stress on his arm, and while his velocity has slipped a notch, his control has improved.

"I don't feel as strong as ever, but I feel as good as ever," Percival said. "I can throw both pitches [fastball and curve] for strikes, and I know I have enough juice to get it by people when I have to."

*

Catching a knuckleball pitcher for the first time didn't pose too much of a problem for Jim Leyritz Friday night, but warming up Dennis Springer in the bullpen before the game did.

A pitch got past Leyritz, and as he went to retrieve it, he slipped on some slick concrete and fell hard on his left hip, cutting his right hand as he tried to break his fall.

"I couldn't get up for a minute," Leyritz said. "I almost didn't make the game."

Leyritz did play and homered in his first at-bat in the Angels' 12-2 victory. But Angel Manager Terry Collins said Leyritz was so sore Saturday that he held him out the team's 3-1 victory.

*

General Manager Bill Bavasi took offense to a Ron Wilson-related letter to Viewpoint in Saturday's Times, which criticized Mighty Duck/Angel President Tony Tavares for "paying a million bucks to the San Francisco Giants to rid the Angels of annual Gold Glove winner J.T. Snow."

There was a perception that Tavares didn't like Snow, and that Tavares' feelings prompted the Angels to trade Snow for pitcher Allen Watson last winter, "but that deal was mine," Bavasi said, "and if there's any dissatisfaction with it, it should be directed toward me.

"I didn't think we could win with that kind of production out of first base. And I hate seeing other people blasted for what I do."

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