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Angels are rising to prominence

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 26, 2002

His Angels lost 14 of their first 20 and were not playing to their potential.

The grumbling started.

How long until Mike Scioscia was fired? Were the offseason acquisitions of Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele certifiable busts? Would Tim Salmon ever put up numbers again like he did in 2000?

Scioscia played in 1,141 career major-league games; enough to realize 23 days in April do not break a season.

"Obviously we haven't met the challenge," he said at the time. "But I don't see this club performing like this for the whole year."

Entering a three-game series against the Twins on Friday at Edison Field, the Angels were on a roll unmatched by any team this season to pull within two of first-place Seattle in the American League West.

They had won 21 of 24 by outscoring opponents 179-76, batting .315 as a team and pitching to a 2.72 ERA.

"We were good about not panicking when things were going really bad at first," Appier said. "It's a lot different now. You feel a lot more confidence in here.

"It's not cockiness, we're not presumptuous, we don't know we're going to kick everybody's butt, but we do have a lot more confidence."

But it's apparently going to take a lot more than a hot streak to pique fan interest. Anaheim was averaging 22,821 and ranked seventh in the AL.

Scioscia believes the attendance numbers could be due to school still being in session and the season being only 7 weeks old.

"It's not winning two or three weeks," he said. "It's getting to the playoffs and becoming perennial contenders. That's what we have the opportunity to do in our organization.

"We think we're going to be contenders. I think you have to do that to start a tradition over the long-term to get that fan base where it needs to be -- and right now we haven't accomplished that."

HANG 12: Bothered by a sore right shoulder and coming off the two worst seasons of his career, Robin Ventura turned to the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean in the offseason for therapy.

The 34-year-old California native took up surfing and is rejuvenated. That also might have something to do with playing third base for the Yankees and being tied for the AL lead with 12 homers through Friday.

"I'd go out in the morning, and it turned out to be great shoulder work," said Ventura, who surfed as a youngster. "If somebody's ever gone out there and paddled that board out into the water, it's hard. I was doing it two, three times a week ... who knows how much it helped?"

FOR THEM, OR AGAINST THEM: Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, a lifelong Detroit Red Wings fan, got a thrill Tuesday when he met Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman and several Detroit players.

One player less than thrilled about the Red Wings visit to the Rockies clubhouse was outfielder/Colorado Avalanche fan Larry Walker.

"Some of the Red Wings players came in here so I had to go out and destroy things," jokingly said Walker, who went 2-for-3, including a homer, two runs and three RBIs.

ALMOST THE RIGHT ONE: Jeremy Giambi, traded to Philadelphia from Oakland last week, joins the list of not-as-famous brothers to play for the Phillies. Others included Ken Brett, Mike Maddux, Vince DiMaggio and Mark Leiter.

EITHER OR: The White Sox recently sent former South Florida infielder Jason Dellaero from Triple-A Charlotte to Double-A Birmingham.

A first-round pick in 1997, he will play shortstop for the Barons and pitch after throwing well in an impromptu relief appearance in Charlotte. Dellaero struck out two with a 91 mph fastball and plus-rated curveball.

"It's hard to say what his ceiling is, but I do know he's got major-league arm strength," said Don Cooper, Chicago's minor-league pitching coordinator.

ODDS AND ENDS: Texas outfielder Juan Gonzalez had no homers or RBIs in 46 at-bats through Friday. He also had not homered in 93 at-bats. ... With a shutout win against Montreal last week, Tom Glavine's road ERA improved to 0.74. Only Pedro Martinez's road ERA (0.54) was better in the majors.

THE LAST WORD: The tradition was born after the Reds beat the Cubs on opening day. After each game the Reds win, the clubhouse stereo blares Kool & the Gang's Celebration and first baseman Sean Casey dances in the middle of a circle of teammates.

"I'm sure Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray are rolling in their graves, because I have no rhythm."

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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