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ANGELS SPRING TRAINING REPORT

Angel in Outfield Might Be Wallflower at First

March 13, 1998|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tim Salmon will have a new companion at remodeled Edison Field this season--an 18-foot-high right-field wall that will also serve as the out-of-town scoreboard, much like the wall in Baltimore's Camden Yards.

"We're definitely going to need a little crash course to figure it out when we get back to Anaheim," Salmon said. "It's just like going into any new stadium--I may have to adjust where I play a little bit.

"The [outfield] gaps are a little deeper, and we don't know how the ball is going to travel. It will take some getting used to, but it's not something I'm losing any sleep over."

Salmon won't have to try any leaping, home run-robbing catches above the wall in right at home, but that doesn't reduce the potential for danger.

"The only thing I hope is that the wall is softer than the one in Baltimore," Salmon said. "You'd like to go back with confidence, knowing you're not going to get hurt [if you crash into the wall]. The Camden Yards wall is padded, but it doesn't give much."

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Designated hitter Cecil Fielder says spring training "is not really one of my favorite things," and his .208 Cactus League batting average may be reflective of that. But Manager Terry Collins is not the least bit concerned about Fielder's sluggish bat.

"I want his swing to come around on April 1," Collins said. "He'll get plenty of swings here, and from what I've seen, he has plenty of bat speed and he's starting to see the ball well."

The Angels were off Thursday, but Fielder lined a single to center against Colorado on Wednesday, and his two outs were hard-hit balls to deep center field. Because Fielder relies so much on timing--and because he does not pick up a bat during the winter--he is a notoriously slow spring training hitter.

"It's a feel thing," Fielder said of his stroke. "I have a lot of movement in my swing, a lot of rocking back and forth, and it's hard to find your rhythm between swings. But I think I'm starting to come around."

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Pitcher Allen Watson's 1998 contract includes an incentive clause for the left-hander to make an additional $10,000 if he pitches 200 innings and another $5,000 if he throws 215 innings, which prompts the question: Isn't a $2.9-million base salary incentive enough?

"I kind of laugh when I think about that too, but $10,000 is still a lot of money to the average person on the street," Watson said. "And it's still a lot to me because of the way I grew up--we didn't have a lot of money. I still value the dollar."

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Jack McDowell, who gave up two runs on one hit in his four-inning Cactus League debut Sunday, will make his second spring start today against the Chicago White Sox in a split-squad game in Tucson. Ken Hill will start for another Angel team against the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix.

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