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Pain-Free Percival Regains Velocity

September 04, 1997|JOHN WEYLER

One of Troy Percival's pitches was reportedly clocked at 100 mph Sunday in San Francisco, but Manager Terry Collins said, "That must have been the fast gun."

Percival, however, said he believes it was "pretty legit."

Percival, on the disabled list from April 7 to May 16 because of nerve damage in his right shoulder, is finally pitching pain-free and apparently has regained the velocity that made him one of the game's most effective and feared closers.

"I can tell when I'm warming up that I've regenerated the arm strength," Percival said, smiling. "It's a nice feeling going out there knowing you've got the weapons to compete. It beats the hell out of going out there with a 92-mph fastball and no curve.

"It's also a nice feeling to know that it isn't going to hurt when you reach out to open a door."

Percival has earned a save in each of his last eight opportunities and picked up two on the recent trip to San Diego and San Francisco, giving up one hit and striking out four in 1 2/3 innings.

Collins thinks the reemergence of Percival's breaking ball has been as important to his recent success as the renewed zip on his fastball.

"His curve has been short and quick," Collins said. "If he can throw a 96-plus-mph fastball in quality places and curveballs like he has lately, he'll be just fine against anybody."


A week ago, Randy Velarde observed that "the only light at the end of my tunnel is a train." But Monday night the veteran infielder, who has been on the disabled list since March 27 after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery, came out of the tunnel and was the train bearing down on Colorado shortstop Walt Weiss.

Velarde, activated as a pinch-runner, got the chance in the ninth inning. He couldn't break up the game-ending double play, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort.

"You always try to take one positive away every night and that was it after that game [a 4-1 Rocky victory]," Collins said. "Seeing him going into second like that, that's just the way he plays. The guy only has one gear. I can't wait to have him back in the lineup."

Velarde, who is throwing for 10 minutes from a distance of 45 feet, won't be anywhere but on the basepaths in 1997, but he considers that a vast improvement.

"At least I feel like I'm some part of the team," he said. "It's a lot more enjoyable than just coming in here and going to the weight room."


Left-hander Darrell May will start Monday in Toronto, but Collins has yet to decide who will start the three remaining games this season when a fifth starter will be required.

May earned this start in San Francisco on Sunday when he gave up three hits and three runs in five innings.

"Darrell pitched well against a team that is in contention for a division title so he deserves another chance," Collins said. "I saw the same thing I saw in spring training. He took the baseball and went after people. I like that."


* Opponent--Detroit Tigers, four games.

* Site--Tiger Stadium.

* Tonight--4.

* TV--None.

* Radio--KTZN (710).

* Records--Angels 74-65, Tigers 65-73.

* Record vs. Tigers--4-3.


ANGELS' KEN HILL (7-11, 5.32 ERA) vs. TIGERS' SCOTT SANDERS (4-12, 6.36)

* Update--The Angels have lost 12 of the last 18 and may be feeling the pressure of the division title race. "Nothing was expected of this team, but now we're in the position to win and we can't let it build up inside," Manager Terry Collins said. "Every mistake is magnified this time of year but we have to go out and play the way we have all year." The Tigers, long since out of contention, are under no stress and are a much better team at home, where they are 36-33. The Angels are 46-21 when a starter makes it into the seventh inning, but that has happened only twice in the last eight games. Hill gave up only four hits and one run in 8 1/3 innings of a 3-1 victory over San Diego on Friday, retiring 11 of the last 12 batters. It was his longest outing since Sept. 22, 1996. Sanders gave up only two runs in his last start, but the Phillies beat Detroit, 2-0.

* Friday, 4 p.m.--Dennis Springer (8-7, 5.20) vs. Justin Thompson (12-10, 2.86).

* Saturday, 10 a.m.--Allen Watson (11-9, 4.85) vs. Brian Moehler (9-10, 4.63).

* Sunday, 10 a.m.--Jason Dickson (13-6, 4.11) vs. Greg Keagle (1-3, 6.53).

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