Bad news doesn't travel as fast as it used to. Angel second baseman Randy Velarde got to Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon and didn't know cleanup batter Tim Salmon would be sidelined for at least five weeks because of a sprained left wrist until a reporter informed him.
"But for some reason, that doesn't surprise me," said Velarde, who returned to action Wednesday after sitting out five games because of a stiff lower back. "You hate to say we can just pick it up, because all that does is make other people press.
"That's a lethal ingredient you're taking out of the lineup. Without Salmon, obviously teams are going to pitch around Mo [Vaughn]."
The Angels are also without center fielder Jim Edmonds and shortstop Gary DiSarcina, but Velarde said he doesn't harp on how the Angels might be faring if they could put their regular lineup on the field, something they haven't done since spring training.
"This isn't a pretend world," Velarde said. "You can't say, 'What if.' It's what you can do today. I feel for Terry [Collins, Angel manager]. I'm sure he'd love to put that lineup out there and let it play, like [Yankee Manager Don] Zimmer does. To me, what Zim does isn't even managing. He just lets the players do the work."
Angel catcher/outfielder Todd Greene dropped his appeal of a three-game suspension for charging the mound against Seattle on April 18 and began serving it Thursday night. Greene will miss games today and Saturday but will return in time to catch knuckleballer Steve Sparks on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
"[General Manager] Bill Bavasi and [club President] Tony Tavares talked to [American League President] Gene Budig, and they didn't feel he was going to budge on it," Greene said. "The advantage of the appeal process is you get to choose when you take the suspension."
Greene had never charged a mound before going after Seattle's Brett Hinchliffe, who hit Greene with a pitch after Troy Glaus' home run, but even though it cost him precious playing time--Collins had Greene in right field Thursday before learning of the suspension--he has no regrets.
"I've said it before, I don't want to charge the mound again," Greene said. "But if I have to, I will. It's no fun, but baseballs break bones."
One poor series against the depleted Angels this week, and the defending World Series champion Yankees are about to crumble. At least, that's the feeling you might get seeing how the Yankees--and the New York media--have handled this mini-slump.
Yankee catcher Joe Girardi called a players-only meeting after Wednesday night's game, but Zimmer broke it up. Zimmer held a brief meeting before Thursday's game, reminding his players to run out every ground ball and to maximize their efforts.
"Let them have a meeting over at the hotel," Zimmer said. "They can rent a ballroom. . . . I don't believe in team meetings without coaches or managers."
Then there was this New York Post headline Thursday: "Same Team, Different Season--Yankees' '98 magic may be running out." Angel first baseman Darin Erstad got a kick out of that one.
"What are they, 20-12?" Erstad said. "New York has the bar set high. Good teams do that."
It appears Vaughn, slowed by a sprained left ankle, will be the Angels' regular designated hitter for an indefinite period, with an occasional start at first base. Collins said he has given no consideration to sitting Vaughn for a week to let the ankle heal.
"I'm not big and strong enough to hold him down," Collins said. "I think he'll be OK doing this for a while. He's swinging fine and running the bases well."
* Opponent--Tampa Bay Devil Rays, three games.
* Site--Edison Field.
* 1998 record vs. Devil Rays--6-5.
* TV--Channel 9 tonight.
* Radio--KLAC (570), XPRS (1090).
* Records--Angels 16-1, Devil Rays 17-18.
ANGELS' TIM BELCHER (1-3, 9.89 ERA)
DEVIL RAYS' BOBBY WITT (3-0, 4.11 ERA)
* Update--Troy Glaus, who has six hits and 15 strikeouts in his last 46 at-bats, was given Thursday night off, replaced at third base by Tim Unroe. "He needs to sit down for a day and take a deep breath," Collins said. He also needs to begin using the whole field again--Glaus hasn't had a hit to right field since April 26. The Angels have $10.2 million invested in Belcher for the next two years, so they will be patient with the struggling right-hander, but he and Ken Hill need to pitch more consistently and effectively for the depleted Angels to have any chance of staying within striking distance in the American League West.
* Saturday, 7 p.m.--Ken Hill (1-2, 4.02) vs. Tony Saunders (2-3, 8.67).
* Sunday, 5 p.m.--Steve Sparks (1-3, 5.12) vs. Wilson Alvarez (1-2, 3.04).
* Tickets--(714) 663-9000