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Erstad Is a Big Surprise on Defense

September 28, 1999|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

It seemed an outrageous comment at first. "He might be the best defensive first baseman in the American League," Angel third base coach Larry Bowa said of Darin Erstad.

A part-time infielder the best at his position? C'mon. What's next, a utility player winning a Gold Glove?

Then Bowa ran down the list of AL first basemen, and a distinguished fielding group this is not: Tino Martinez, Brian Daubach, Carlos Delgado, Will Clark, Fred McGriff, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Tony Clark, Doug Mientkiewicz, Joe Vitiello, Lee Stevens, Jason Giambi and Raul Ibanez.

"I'm right, he is the best first baseman in the league!" Bowa said, somewhat amazed his initial assessment may have been right. "He would win a Gold Glove if he had enough games."

Actually, there is no requirement for games played to win a Gold Glove, so even though Erstad, who opened the season in left field, has started at first base in only 68 of 139 games, he would be eligible for the award.

Erstad has one error at the position in 682 total chances for an impressive .999 fielding percentage. He has dived to stop ground balls to his left and right, scooped tough throws in the dirt, started double plays, and last week against Tampa Bay he made a tremendous leaping grab of a wild throw toward the inside of the base line and tagged the runner out.

"He has great athleticism," Bowa said. "He can adjust to bad throws, he has great instincts and hand-eye coordination. He knows how to position himself, knows who bunts. He's very cerebral. As an infielder you have to love it. Just get the ball close to him, and he'll come up with it."


The Angels were fearful that Garret Anderson, whose left foot has been bothering him for several weeks, might have a slight tear in his plantar fascia ligament, the same injury that relegated Tim Salmon to designated hitter in 1998, but an MRI exam on the foot Monday was negative.

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