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It's a Victory Amid More Angel Losses

Baseball: Anaheim beats Detroit, 5-3, but pitcher James goes on disabled list and Hill has pinched nerve in his back.

May 09, 1998|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Angels seemed to be trapped in that one-step-forward, two-steps-back mode again Friday night, an all-too-familiar predicament that tempered their 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in front of 31,064 at Edison Field.

Before the Angels ended a four-game losing streak, Manager Terry Collins announced that right fielder Tim Salmon, sidelined since April 22 because of a partial tear of a ligament in his left foot, probably will be activated today as the team's designated hitter.

Then the other shoe dropped. Twice.

Reliever Mike James was put on the disabled list because of a partial muscle tear in his right forearm, and Collins learned that Ken Hill, the team's second-best pitcher behind Chuck Finley, has a pinched nerve in his back.

"The only thing Ned [Bergert, Angel athletic trainer] said was that he had numbness in one of his legs," Collins said. "So we'll have to see."

Hill underwent an MRI exam and X-rays and was examined by Dr. William Dillen, a back specialist. Tests revealed no serious problems, but Jason Dickson, scheduled to be in the bullpen throughout the weekend, was instructed by Collins to throw a workout Friday afternoon as though he would start Sunday.

Collins was confident after the game that Hill would not miss a turn though. "It was just a good scare," he said. Still, the manager could only shake his head when assessing the incredible rash of injuries that has struck the Angels.

"I don't know when this is going to end," Collins said.

There is just as much uncertainty surrounding Salmon's return, the decision for which came after lengthy consultation with team doctors, trainers, Salmon, Collins and General Manager Bill Bavasi.

The right fielder won't be at full strength. He still hasn't tested the foot by trying to run the bases at full speed, and he's still in a considerable amount of pain.

"Just take a nail and tap it into your heel--that's what it feels like when I run," Salmon said. "But I'm not going to be stealing any bases or going for triples if I hit one in the gap. . . .

"It doesn't bother me when I swing, and that's what the team needs most. The hope is that however slow I'll be on the bases, it will be enough."

Salmon spoke on the phone this week with Mark McGwire, who missed 100 games with Oakland in 1993 because of a similar injury and re-injured the foot in his first game back after sitting out 3 1/2 months. He strongly recommended that Salmon not try to return so soon.

"The conversation was doom and gloom, and I wouldn't say he really encouraged me," Salmon said. "But everyone's body is different, and I hope I'll have enough sense to be careful out there. . . ."

The Angels were at least temporarily distracted by their victory, which included Allen Watson's impressive six-inning, three-run effort on three days rest, former Tiger Matt Walbeck's three-run double and Damon Mashore's RBI single in the first inning; Cecil Fielder's sixth-inning triple, only the seventh of his career; Darin Erstad's seventh-inning homer and Troy Percival's ninth save.

But the biggest play of the game came in the seventh, when one of baseball's fastest runners, Detroit's Brian Hunter, stared down one of the game's best outfield throwers, Jim Edmonds--and blinked.

The Tigers had trimmed a 4-0 deficit to 4-3 on Tony Clark's homer in the second inning, and Damion Easley's RBI double and Deivi Cruz's RBI single in the fourth, and they loaded the bases with one out in the seventh on reliever Rich DeLucia's three walks.

Pep Harris replaced DeLucia and got cleanup batter Clark to fly to medium center, where Edmonds made the catch and fired a strong one-hop throw to the plate.

Hunter tagged and started for home but stopped about 15 feet down the line. Easley then grounded to third base on a full-count pitch to end the inning.

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