Minor League Spring Training – March 17

Mike Scioscia talks with pitcher Tommy Mendoza and catcher Hank Conger after their bullpen session.

Rumors of Hank Conger’s demise are premature.

Apparently it started with a blog entry by Orange County Register sportswriter Bill Plunkett. He wrote:

I noticed Hank Conger warming up pitchers in one of the bullpens. Conger was catching the pitches — and then flipping the ball under-handed to a coach standing nearby who would throw it back to the pitcher.

Not a good sign.

During a break, I went up to Conger and asked him why he wasn’t throwing. Turns out he has a slight tear of the labrum in his right shoulder.

The shoulder has been bothering him since early in spring training. Invited to the major-league camp to start the spring, his throwing was limited. When the discomfort continued after he was re-assigned to the minor-league camp, Conger underwent an MRI which revealed the tear.

He has begun a rehabilitation program that could last as long as four weeks, meaning he will most likely miss the start of the minor-league season and stay behind at the extended spring training camp in Tempe. Surgery remains a possibility at some point.

The Angels’ first-round pick in 2005, Conger has already had to deal with wrist and back issues in his first two professional seasons.

Citing the Register blog, the fantasy baseball site Rotoworld.com overreacted and posted:

Conger is expected to rehab for a month before attempting a return. Depending on how the strengthening program takes, he could undergo surgery that would likely cost him the rest of the season. The lost year would likely be very significant to his development, and it shows that the Angels might have guessed wrong when they opted to develop him as a catcher. There’s a good chance he’ll end up at first base or DH anyway, and that wear and tear associated with catching could prevent him from reaching his ceiling as a hitter.

To quote Drew Barrymore in E.T., "Give me a break."

An athlete who throws a lot suffers a slight labrum tear and that’s definitive proof the team "guessed wrong" developing him at that position?!

Joe Saunders had a much more severe labrum tear and missed the entire 2003 season. Did the Angels "guess wrong" developing him as a pitcher?!

What a stupid thing to say.

Nevertheless, I’m already seeing hysterical overreactions on Angels fan boards who think a roto web site knows more about developing ballplayers than the professionals with decades of experience in the game.

For the record, I watched Hank this morning engage in a full range of workouts. He took batting practice, he participated in catcher fielding drills, he caught Tommy Mendoza in the bullpen. Afterwards, Hank and Tommy met with Angels manager Mike Scioscia and minor league pitching instructor Kernan Ronan.

I didn’t see anyone giving Hank the Last Rites.

That said, a fan told me yesterday he’d heard that rumor, but it must not be that big a deal if Hank is participating full-time in drills. I will ask Hank myself tomorrow if I get the chance and if he’s willing to talk about it. But let’s not get all hysterical and declare his catching career over until all the facts are in.

Scioscia, pitching coach Mike Butcher, and much of the front office were in attendance because the parent club had the day off. Jon Garland started the Triple-A game and gave up three runs in five innings. Mike Napoli caught Garland and then exited.

The starting lineup for the Salt Lake game was:


1. Nathan Haynes CF
2. Hainley Statia SS
3. Mike Napoli C
4. Matt Brown DH
5. Terry Evans RF
6. Brandon Wood 3B
7. Chris Pettit LF
8. Freddy Sandoval 1B
9. Sean Rodriguez 2B

… with Garland as the starting pitcher. He was followed by Brok Butcher for three innings, then Rafael Rodriguez pitched a scoreless 9th.

The Arkansas starting lineup was:


1. Josh LeBlanc CF
2. Cliff Remole DH
3. Ben Johnson C
4. Corey Smith 3B
5. Michael Collins 1B
6. Drew Toussaint LF
7. Matt Pali RF
8. Ryan Leahy 2B
9. Kevin Ramos SS

… with Shane Loux the starting pitcher. He was followed by Fernando Rodriguez, Robert Mosebach, and Kevin Jepsen.

As I warned yesterday, don’t take these lineups too seriously. It’s way too early for assignments to the various affiliates, and as players are returned from big league camp you can expect a domino effect, with players at upper levels being pushed down a level or two.

Click Here to watch video highlights from today’s games. The pitcher/catcher battery is Garland and Napoli. You’ll also see Scioscia talking to Mendoza and the moribund Mr. Conger (if you believe the roto site).

Tomorrow is my last day at camp, then I return home on Wednesday.

One comment

  1. hogwild57@mlb.com

    the reason kaleb didnt move to cedar rapids yet is because he was late signing his contract and that all the top picks of the angels didnt move up yet. kaleb will be moving up in a months time. and watch out when he gets there hes an excellent kid and he ants to play ball more than anyone can imagine. he understands where he is at and what is demanding of. he also pushes himself harder than most kids his own age, he strives strives to push himself forward. wait 1 year for him to put some weight and muscle in his 6’4 frame. also wait until you see him after he gets out of spring training and let him show everyone what he can really do.


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