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Concern mounting about Hank Conger's throwing

The Angels like Hank Conger's bat, but his four errors and failure to throw out base stealers are red flags, and the team could look to acquire a backup catcher.

March 17, 2013|By Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times
  • Angels catcher Hank Conger hits a two-run single during the sixth inning of an exhibition game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Angels catcher Hank Conger hits a two-run single during the sixth inning… (Morry Gash / Associated…)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels, who grow more concerned about Hank Conger's throwing problems with each passing day, have stepped up their search for an option at backup catcher.

But with the start of the regular season two weeks away, the pickings are slim. And with a handful of other teams also looking for catching help, the Angels' best move may be to start the year with either Conger or John Hester backing up Chris Iannetta.

"These next couple of weeks, hopefully we're going to sort some things out," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have a lot of confidence the solution can come in house. These guys will let us know where they're at."

Conger has a team-high four errors this spring, all on throws, and has not caught a base stealer in six tries. However, the switch-hitter is also tied for the team lead in runs batted in (11) and is fourth in hitting at .417, ahead of both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

Hester is hitting .211 and has thrown out one of eight would-be base stealers.

The most attractive outside candidate could be Colorado's Ramon Hernandez, whom the Angels have scouted. He threw out a quarter of the baserunners who tried to steal on him last year but he pales in comparison to Conger at the plate, hitting .217 in 2012. Plus he has $3.2 million left on his contract.

The Rockies are deep behind the plate and would pay some of that in exchange for pitching help. But with the market for backup catchers growing, Colorado's asking price in prospects could be high.

Another option is Chris Snyder, who signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals. Snyder can opt out of that deal next weekend and become a free agent but he may not be much of an upgrade; he's allowed seven steals in as many tries this spring and hit better than .200 only twice in his last four big league seasons.

An interesting, if highly unlikely, alternative could be Bobby Wilson, whom the Angels lost on waivers last year. Wilson signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees in January and though he's not likely to beat out Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli for a roster spot, New York wants to keep him at triple A as insurance.

If that looks like slim pickings, stay tuned. A number of other candidates could hit the market in the next 10 days as teams make their final cuts before opening day.

Short hops

Albert Pujols, limited to designated hitter duties following off-season surgery on his right knee, could make his first appearance of the spring at first base Tuesday. . . . Pitcher Brandon Sisk, optioned to triple-A camp last week, appears to be headed toward reconstructive elbow surgery. The Angels obtained Sisk from Kansas City in the Ervin Santana trade last November. . . . Reliever Kevin Jepsen, who said he hasn't picked up a ball in three days, hopes to resume throwing Tuesday. Jepsen, troubled by tightness in his right triceps, said there is "zero percent" chance he'll start the season on the disabled list.

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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