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Catching Up on One-Sided Trades

April 10, 1998|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

On July 31, 1996, only hours before the trading deadline, the Angels made a seemingly innocuous deal with Detroit, sending a struggling infielder who did not fit into their plans to the Tigers for a middle reliever Detroit was looking to get rid of.

The name of that infielder? Damion Easley, who had a fine year in 1997 for the Tigers, batting .264 with 22 home runs, 72 runs batted in and 97 runs scored. And the pitcher? Greg Gohr, who was awful in 1996 and retired soon after the 1997 season began.

You can bet General Manager Bill Bavasi regretted that deal the minute second baseman Randy Velarde went down with his elbow injury in the spring of '97, because Easley's bat, steady glove and speed would have been a tremendous addition to the Angels this season.

But at least Bavasi might have gotten even with the Tigers. Detroit, looking to dump excess baggage over the winter, sent backup catcher Matt Walbeck and utility player Phil Nevin to the Angels for minor league reliever Nick Skuse, who had appeared in one triple-A game and had no shot of making the Angel bullpen.

Now it's Tiger General Manager Randy Smith who might be having second thoughts. Walbeck and Nevin are sharing catching duties in the absence of injured Todd Greene and have combined to give the Angels a considerable presence, both behind and at the plate.

Walbeck has thrown out six of 11 runners trying to steal and has drawn praise from Manager Terry Collins for his game-calling and his ability to block balls in the dirt. The switch-hitter is also batting .263 with three runs and four RBIs, two of them game-winners.

Nevin, a converted third baseman who had caught in only five big-league games, has impressed Collins so much defensively that the manager said, "If Phil decides this is what he wants to do, if he puts all of his effort into catching, he can be an everyday catcher in the big leagues."

Nevin also has four RBIs in three games, and hit a home run in a 6-1 victory Tuesday night over the Red Sox.

And what of Skuse? He's still in the minor leagues.

"I don't know who Nick Skuse is and I've never seen him pitch," Collins said. "He may win a Cy Young Award one day, and I hope he does. But right now, that's about the best deal we've made."


Angel prospect Troy Glaus is on a torrid home run pace at double-A Midland, his two long balls Tuesday night giving him seven home runs in six games. But that doesn't mean the former UCLA standout will be given a chance to launch balls into the jagged rocks and waterfalls beyond Edison Field's left-center field wall any time soon.

"I don't think we're real anxious to have him play in the big leagues in 1998," Bavasi said of the first-round pick, third overall, in the 1997 draft. "We're not ruling that out, either."

Because of protracted negotiations, Glaus didn't sign with the Angels until September, receiving a $2.25-million bonus. It was too late to play for an Angel farm team, and Arizona Fall League rosters were already set, so the third baseman played winter ball in Venezuela.

But Bavasi would like Glaus to play at least one full season in the minors, and he doesn't want to rush the converted shortstop. If he continues to progress, though, Glaus probably will be called up in September and will have an excellent shot at the Angel third base job in 1999.

"The feeling is, Troy's going to get there pretty quick," said Jeff Parker, Angel director of player development.


* Opponent--Cleveland Indians, three games.

* Site--Jacobs Field, Cleveland.

* Today--10 a.m. PDT

* Radio--KRLA (1110), XPRS (1090).

* Records--Angels 5-3, Indians 6-1.

* Record vs. Indians--0-3.


* Update--The Indians outscored the Angels in sweeping a three-game series last weekend, 23-6, but it came at a heavy price. Reserve second baseman Enrique Wilson tore a ligament in his left thumb sliding into second last Friday, underwent surgery Tuesday and will be out until after the All-Star break. Shortstop Omar Vizquel jammed the ring finger on his right hand sliding head-first into second Sunday, and second baseman Shawon Dunston, after moving to short to replace Vizquel, suffered a bruised biceps in a collision with left fielder Brian Giles. Catcher Sandy Alomar sat out the series because of a strained hamstring and hasn't played in more than a week.

* Saturday, 10 a.m. PDT--Jason Dickson (0-1, 12.46) vs. Charles Nagy (1-0, 9.00).

* Sunday, 10 a.m. PDT--Chuck Finley (1-0, 1.13) vs. Jaret Wright (1-0, 6.00).

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