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ANGEL REPORT

Erstad Has His Reasons for Vetoing Dodgers

February 18, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. — This could be a shot heard 'round Southern California: Darin Erstad, the Angels' team leader and center fielder, has designated the Dodgers as one of four teams to which he cannot be traded.

While the Angels are reigning World Series champions and the Dodgers haven't won a playoff game in 15 years, Erstad insists he means no disrespect toward the Dodgers.

"They've got a great organization," he said Monday. "I don't hate them."

Erstad's new contract allows him to select four teams to which he cannot be traded, and the three others -- the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- represent the perennially futile teams usually vetoed by players with limited no-trade clauses.

But why veto the Dodgers, a storied franchise with generous fan support and a generous payroll?

"It's just a little something from when I was a kid," Erstad said. "My best friend in North Dakota was a die-hard Dodger fan, and I was a die-hard Giant fan. We played Wiffle ball games, since we could throw a ball. We still played them in my backyard when I was 23, 24, 25.

"Maybe I'm stubborn. It would be like I was giving in to my buddy."

Erstad is not ready to proclaim, though, that the Angels have overtaken the Dodgers as Southern California's team.

"They've got such a great history," he said. "We've just taken one of the first steps in trying to develop a great history."

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The Angels expect pitcher Aaron Sele to start the season on the disabled list, but they are not interested in signing Chuck Finley to replace him.

Finley, 40, the Angels' all-time victory leader, remains available as a free agent and is interested in returning to Anaheim. By signing him, however, the Angels would surrender their first-round draft choice to the St. Louis Cardinals. That compensation still would be due, General Manager Bill Stoneman said, even if the Angels signed Finley to a minor league contract and did not add him to the major league roster until after opening day.

Stoneman said he was unwilling to forfeit the draft pick and was satisfied with the Angels' options to replace Sele.

Mickey Callaway, Matt Wise and Scott Schoeneweis are the top candidates, with Mark Lukasiewicz and Rich Rodriguez available to replace Schoeneweis as a left-handed reliever if necessary.

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Lehman Brothers, the investment bank handling the sale of the Angels, has asked potential buyers to submit opening bids by next Monday.

Of the publicly identified potential buyers, a group led by the Nederlander family is considered the most likely to complete a purchase, in part because the oft-protracted major league approval process would be shortened since brothers James and Robert Nederlander already are limited partners in the New York Yankees.

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Utility man Shawn Wooten became engaged in December and spent the winter in Minnesota, where fiancee Marissa is attending law school. After she graduates, Wooten said, there is "zero" chance the couple will reside there. "I'm a SoCal boy," he said. "It's a little too cold."

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The Angels don't have a left-handed bat on the bench, a potential opening for Jeff DaVanon, Gary Johnson or Nathan Haynes if they keep a fifth outfielder rather than a 12th pitcher.

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