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Erstad's Pain Is Pritchett's Gain

Angels: Replacement has a chance to make a big impact while first baseman's injured hamstring heals.

September 05, 1998|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chris Pritchett is happy for the opportunity. He's just not wild about the circumstances.

Darin Erstad's strained left hamstring has Angel Manager Terry Collins again playing who's on first--and Pritchett still has plenty of Angel fans saying "Who?"

Erstad's injury leaves the Angels without their best all-around player and tremors will be felt throughout the lineup.

Rookie third baseman Troy Glaus may need to mature a little quicker and produce a little more. Newly acquired Gregg Jefferies is more vital. And it would help if Pritchett, a second-round draft pick in 1991, would prove himself.

He had one hit in three at-bats Friday before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of the Angels' 5-3 loss to Kansas City.

"I would rather have Darin out there," said Pritchett, who had played in five major league games before this season. "We need him to win.

"I don't know what my role is. Today, I'm a starter. If I show up tomorrow and I'm not in the lineup, then I'll get myself ready in case I'm needed. I'll study the pitchers I might face late in the game."

Pritchett was ready early Wednesday, when Erstad re-injured his left hamstring in the first inning against Cleveland. Pritchett made a snappy defensive play and had three hits in the 13-5 victory.

If he can sustain that for another 21 games, it will make Collins' life easier.

"He has brought some new life to us," Collins said. "He has a chance to win a job. This is something that could help him next year as much as anything else."

Collins does have other options.

Todd Greene is dangerous as a hitter but has played only two major league games at first base.

"It's not a position where you can hide someone," Collins said.

Greene could play left field, where he has more experience, and Jefferies could move to first.

"I'm not going to ask [Jefferies] to do something he's uncomfortable doing," Collins said.

"Jim Edmonds even came to me and said, 'Remember, I can play first.' I appreciate that, but I think I'll keep my Gold Glove center fielder in center field.

"Darin's not here, so we're not going to talk about him. We could talk about him not being here every night. Let's talk about the guys who are here."

Which leads back to Pritchett, who was voted the best defensive first baseman in the Pacific Coast League this season. All he has to do is hit. He has a .361 average in 12 games after Friday.

He showed flashes in August, when he was called up to replace the injured Dave Hollins. Pritchett drove in four runs, three with a bases-loaded double, in a 7-2 victory over Chicago Aug. 17.

Pritchett has been consistent, but not overwhelming, hitter in the minor leagues. Angel officials would have preferred he showed a little more power-- he has never hit more than 16 home runs. He spent the last four seasons at triple-A Vancouver, where he was closing in on some career team records.

"Those aren't the kind of things you want," Pritchett said.

Now he has a chance.

"I just want to help us win games," Pritchett said "Maybe during the off-season I'll look back and see if it has helped me."

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