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BASEBALL EXTRA | ANGEL REPORT

NOTES : Collins Can't Call Shots, May Need One

June 20, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

It's not exactly the flesh-eating bacteria, but a nasty stomach virus--call it the Periwinkle Flu--has Manager Terry Collins so skittish that when asked Thursday who would be pitching for the Angels tonight he said, "I think we'd better wait and see who's sick tomorrow."

The bug claimed Tim Salmon on Thursday. The right fielder, who is batting .440 (22 for 50) with four homers and 15 RBIs in the last 14 games, spent the day in bed with severe flulike symptoms and was unable to make it to Anaheim Stadium for the game against Oakland.

Pitcher Allen Watson, who was supposed to start Thursday night, spent Wednesday at home getting intravenous fluids and was still not feeling well enough to attend Thursday's game.

Reliever Rich DeLucia sat out the weekend series against San Francisco because of the virus and spent part of Tuesday in the hospital, but he was available Thursday night. Starter Chuck Finley still was feeling lingering effects of the bug when he pitched against the Dodgers on Tuesday night.

"We have guys who are violently ill," Collins said. "This thing has hit us pretty hard."

Just what the Angels needed--they already have been besieged by injuries to regulars such as Jim Edmonds (torn knee cartilage), Darin Erstad (nerve problem in elbow), Jim Leyritz (bruised sternum) and Luis Alicea (tight hamstring).

And they continue to try to compete in the tough American League West with their un-Marked rotation--Mark Langston (elbow) and Mark Gubicza (shoulder) are on the disabled list.

"Hopefully," Collins said, "we've gotten all our bad luck out of the way now."

*

The Angels, as expected, will purchase the contract of triple-A pitcher Kevin Gross today, and the veteran right-hander will start against the A's tonight.

To make room for Gross, the Angels put reserve Eddie Murray, who is suffering from tendinitis in his right wrist, on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 12.

Gross, a 36-year-old curveball specialist, started two games for Vancouver, going 1-0 with a 1.64 earned-run average and giving up two runs on seven hits in 11 innings.

The former Dodger has a 140-157 record in 12 years but hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 1996, with the Texas Rangers. Gross went 2-3 with a 4.83 ERA for the Rangers' triple-A team at Oklahoma City this season, but a clause in his contract allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't recalled by May 1.

The Angels on Thursday also signed left-handed pitcher Matt Dunbar to a minor league contract and assigned him to Vancouver. Dunbar, 29, was released by the A's this spring after giving up 15 earned runs in nine innings.

*

The Angel bullpen is full of quirky personalities, guys who pull Three Stooges-like stunts during games to stay loose, and this tight-knit group loves a good practical joke.

But what happens when the relievers are stung by a series of setbacks, such as when Mike James blew a three-run lead against San Diego last Friday, and Troy Percival gave up a game-winning home run against the Dodgers on Tuesday night, and Mike Holtz did the same Wednesday night?

Do they perform some ritual to exorcise their demons, sacrifice a small animal or burn something beyond Anaheim Stadium's left-field wall?

"We're superstitious, but we're not that superstitious," Percival said. "We can't blame that on anything but us not doing our jobs. There are times when we're going to get hit, but this all happened to come at the same time."

ON DECK

ANGELS' KEVIN GROSS vs. ATHLETICS' DON WENGERT (3-4, 5.06 ERA)

Anaheim Stadium, 7

Radio--KTZN (710).

* Update--It was unclear Thursday night how the addition of Gross would affect the Angels' rotation--Dennis Springer or Matt Perisho could wind up in the bullpen--but with so many pitchers suffering from minor injuries or illness, Collins no doubt will benefit from having a 12-man pitching staff for the next week or so. Pitching has been a sore spot for the A's too. Oakland has the league's worst earned-run average (5.69 entering Thursday night), and starters have not recorded successive wins this season. Former Long Beach State standout Jason Giambi, an outfielder who is suffering from a strained right quadriceps, likely will return to the lineup tonight.

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