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ANGELS REPORT

Velarde Earns Confidence

May 18, 1999|CHRIS FOSTER and BILL SHAIKIN

Second baseman Randy Velarde stepped to the plate with one out in the eighth inning Saturday, but everyone in the stadium knew who was on deck. The Angels trailed Tampa Bay, 3-1, but had runners on first and third with Mo Vaughn waiting in the wings.

This had potential for the Angels. Instead, Velarde hit a sharp grounder that shortstop Kevin Stocker snagged and turned into an inning-ending double play.

A disappointing moment, but Manager Terry Collins wasn't about to wallow in it.

"I had the guy on deck, but I also had a lot of confidence in the guy up there," Collins said.

Velarde has earned that faith, having long since erased concerns about his surgically repaired right elbow. He has become what the Angels envisioned when they signed him before the 1996 season--an everyday second baseman.

Velarde got off to a fast start and has kept rolling in May despite back problems that forced him to miss five games. He is second on the team in batting with a .313 average.

He also fields only ground balls, not questions about his elbow. Those stopped after he made several off-balance throws without even so much as a twinge.

*

With two on and two out in the ninth Sunday and the Angels trailing, 7-4, Tim Unroe grounded out. A pinch-hitter was not an option. If Todd Greene starts, as he did Sunday, the Angels have no power on the bench.

They do, however, have Steve Decker at triple-A Edmonton. Decker has 12 home runs. He is hitting .286 and ranks among Pacific Coast League leaders with 34 RBIs in 37 games.

However, they aren't sure where they could play him. With Jim Edmonds and Tim Salmon injured, they could use an outfielder, but Decker plays catcher, first base and third base.

*

The Angels face Baltimore starting today and will see third baseman Cal Ripken Jr., back from his first stint on the disabled list. His injured back seems fine, as he has six hits in 18 at-bats and five RBIs since returning.

ON DECK

* Opponent--Baltimore Orioles.

* Site--Camden Yards, Baltimore.

* Today--4 PDT.

* TV--KCAL tonight and Thursday, Fox Sports West Wednesday.

* Radio--KLAC (570), XPRS (1090).

* Records--Angels 17-21, Orioles 13-24.

* 1998 record vs. Orioles--5-6.

TODAY

ANGELS' CHUCK FINLEY (2-3, 4.89 ERA)

vs.

ORIOLES' MIKE MUSSINA (5-1, 4.89 ERA)

* Update--It's not often that Oriole outfielder Albert Belle ranks third on the distraction list, but such is the case in Baltimore these days. Manager Ray Miller is under fire, and pitcher Xavier Hernandez had a grievance heard Monday on his claim that the Orioles should honor a $2.7-million contract offer they made in December, before a physical revealed a slight tear in his rotator cuff.

Wednesday--Omar Olivares (4-3, 3.00) vs. Scott Erickson (1-5, 5.61).

Thursday--Tim Belcher (2-3, 8.78) vs. Juan Guzman (1-4, 5.88).

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