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SPRING TRAINING REPORT / BASEBALL : ANGELS

Youngster Baughman Impresses Collins

March 10, 1998|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Manager Terry Collins had said he would make a move in Monday's game that would surprise many players, and it wasn't having Dave Hollins leading off during a 10-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

It was putting 23-year-old shortstop Justin Baughman in at second base in the sixth inning, an indication that Collins won't simply hand the job to Norberto Martin, 31, if Randy Velarde can't recover from elbow surgery by opening day.

Martin is a lifetime .299 hitter but has limited defensive range, and with no real strikeout pitchers in the rotation, the Angels need a strong defense. Martin has also been a utility player for four big league seasons, and there is concern that he might not be as effective in an everyday role.

That brings us to Baughman, who has impressed Collins with his instincts, aggressive bat and speed. Baughman led the California League with 68 stolen bases for Class-A Lake Elsinore last season and is the fastest player in the organization.

Collins is already considering a second-base platoon of Martin and Chip Hale, who bats left-handed, but said Baughman, a shortstop his whole life, will get serious consideration, even though he's young and he hasn't played above Class A.

"Robin Yount was 19 when he reached the big leagues and Darin Erstad is 23 now, and no one says anything about them," Collins said. "Justin is an interesting guy, and he's shown me enough to know I like him. Whether or not he's prepared to skip two levels has to be determined."

Baughman had a rocky debut. A relay throw glanced off his glove for an error, but he did range far behind the bag to field Tyler Houston's grounder and make a one-hop throw to first.

"I didn't really know what I was doing. It was a real unfamiliar position, and I was nervous," Baughman said. "But give me a day or two there and it'll be second nature. I didn't come in expecting to make this team. I just wanted to leave an impression when I left. But to know they're taking a look at me is definitely encouraging."

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Angel season-ticket sales topped the 13,000-mark over the weekend. The Angels sold 12,100 in 1997. . . . Omar Olivares had another shaky outing, giving up five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander, who is competing for a bullpen spot, has given up 16 hits and 10 runs in his last two starts.

Jason Dickson, sidelined for a week because of shoulder tendinitis, will start his first Cactus League game today against the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Ariz. . . . A man wearing an Arizona Diamondback cap and shirt was caught trying to steal an Angel equipment bag from the team's Tempe Diablo Stadium complex. Even had the fan made off with the goods, he would have been disappointed. The bag held steel pipes used to erect pitching machines.

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