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Guerrero Becomes Mr. Inside

His home run is the key to a 5-2 victory over the Orioles. Jered Weaver is called up for his first start tonight.

May 27, 2006|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The latest prodigy reported to Anaheim on Friday. While the front office and coaching staff discussed his promotion for weeks, and while fans debated it on talk shows and message boards, Jered Weaver said he was shocked when the Angels actually called down to Salt Lake City on Thursday to call him up.

"It was like I saw a ghost. My face went white," he said. "Then I was getting excited and running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to figure out what to pack."

His A game will do just fine. Weaver, the newest and perhaps most touted arrival from the Salt Lake pipeline, starts tonight in his major league debut. Vladimir Guerrero stole the show Friday, with a game-winning, inside-the-park home run in the Angels' 5-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

"Hitting it over the fence is more fun," Guerrero said through a translator. "Running home to home is not that easy."

With the score tied, 2-2, and one on in the eighth inning, Guerrero rifled a drive down the right-field line. Jay Gibbons dived into foul territory, then crashed into the wall, injuring his right shoulder and left hip. He got up, hobbling, giving chase as best he could, making a throw as best he could.

Guerrero, who had stopped at third on orders from coach Dino Ebel, saw the poor relay and took off, sliding home safely. He rested on his back for a moment, exhausted and wearing a wide smile, while his teammates jokingly wondered if he needed oxygen.

The inside-the-park home run was the first of Guerrero's career. Dallas McPherson homered too, and Ervin Santana, Scot Shields (2-3) and Francisco Rodriguez combined on a six-hitter.

If Weaver wins tonight, the Angels will have their first four-game winning streak this season, with family and friends from Simi Valley in the stands and big brother Jeff watching from the dugout.

"This could be a once-in-a-lifetime deal," Jered said. "We may never be able to be on the same team again."

General Manager Bill Stoneman has refused to trade his best prospects, so the Angels might as well play them, but the roster appears to resemble a rebuilding club more than a championship-caliber one.

The Angels are not even two months into their season, and already their roster includes seven players who started the season at Salt Lake -- Weaver, McPherson, first baseman Kendry Morales, catcher Mike Napoli, outfielder Tommy Murphy, infielder Erick Aybar and pitcher Kevin Gregg. Four more have come from Salt Lake and gone back.

"It's not like we're calling up average major leaguers," club elder and designated hitter Tim Salmon said. "We're calling up guys who are No. 1 prospects. They can play."

Salmon has lived through more than his share of rebuilding years in Anaheim. He doesn't consider this year as one, and he doesn't believe the Angels must choose either playing the kids or playing for a championship.

"But I don't know if you'd ever say that," he said. "As long as you're in the battle, the focus is on winning. You don't concede until you're done."

And why should the Angels concede anything? They're in last place, but in the friendly American League West, where first place could be yours with a week and a winning streak. They're one game out of third place, two out of second and five out of first.

They might stick around all summer. So might Jered Weaver.

"He asked me what he needed to bring," Jeff Weaver said. "I told him, 'Bring a week's worth of clothes. If all goes well, you can have the rest shipped out.' "

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