Conger takes demotion to Triple-A in stride
Angels catcher understands big picture, needs to work on swing
ANAHEIM -- Hank Conger's maturity level is frequently mentioned when Angels manager Mike Scioscia talks about the 23-year-old catcher from Huntington Beach, a couple of Mark Trumbo homers away from Angel Stadium.
It was evident in the way Conger accepted his demotion to Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday as his teammates were preparing for a three-game American League West showdown with front-running Texas at Angel Stadium.
"When the season started, it was like it was going to be a one-week thing with guys coming off the DL," Conger said. "I've appreciated every day I've been here, and I think I've learned a lot. I was able to do some things to help the team, and now it seems like it's the other way around.
"I need to look at the big picture. Now it's time to refresh in Triple-A and get things going. I know there are things I need to work on, improve on. I tend to be hard on myself, but I have no regrets over anything that happened. I worked hard every day to get better, and that's what I'll continue to do."
Conger, a switch-hitter, offered much-needed power from the left side in Kendrys Morales' absence. That was one reason he made 42 starts -- the team was 21-21 -- and also why he was sent to Salt Lake.
A .214 hitter for the season with five homers and 16 RBIs in 154 at-bats, Conger is just 9-for-51 (.176) since June 1 and is a .194 hitter since May 1 after batting .273 in April.
Catching is the most demanding position on the field, and Conger's Minor League career got off to a slow start defensively because of early injuries, notably in his throwing shoulder. He had some catching up to do, and he is still in the process of getting invaluable game experience.
"There were definitely some things getting away from him as the season went on," Scioscia said. "On the offensive end, it's tough getting three looks a week. He's maybe over-swinging a bit. There are a couple of things for him to clean up.
"No doubt his upside is as an everyday catcher. That's obvious. He's definitely contributed to some things we've done, and we expect him back."
Wilson in line to get steadier playing time
ANAHEIM -- The good news is that Bobby Wilson is batting .375 in his past three games. The not-so-good news, from his perspective, is that those three appearances have come over a span of three weeks.
Wilson doubled and singled Sunday in four at-bats, but it was his misfortune to be handling Joel Pineiro on a day the veteran right-hander had no feel for the baseball, yielding eight runs while getting one out in the first inning. Seven of those runs were earned, harming Wilson's catcher's ERA as badly as Pineiro's ERA.
With the departure of Hank Conger to Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, the Angels are down to two catchers. Wilson, who lost 30 pounds over the winter and had a brilliant spring, jumped a spot on the depth chart behind Jeff Mathis and figures to get more consistent work than his seven starts in the team's first 96 games.
"Bobby will get some looks for sure," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "We're going to use both those guys as we move forward."
Mathis, at 3.67, owns the lowest catcher's ERA in the Majors since 2007 among those who have caught at least 2,000 innings. He is followed by Russell Martin (3.71), Jason Varitek (3.74) and Matt Treanor (3.80).
"You've got to earn your role," Wilson said. "Just because this happened, it doesn't mean I'm in a more significant role. There's just a little more opportunity.
"This is what I've worked for, what I'm ready for. It's a challenge. But I don't want to see anybody get sent down or injured. I know the feeling. I feel for Hank. I just talked with [Brandon Wood, now with the Pirates]. He went through the same thing, and he's happy now that he's getting to play. And I'm happy for him."
Trout gets breather as Wells starts in center
ANAHEIM -- After playing seven consecutive games in center field with Peter Bourjos on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring, Angels prospect Mike Trout took a seat on the pine Tuesday night for the first of three games with the Rangers at Angel Stadium.
Trout has gone 3-for-24 (.125) with a double, two walks, two runs scored and one RBI. He hasn't had the success he or his supporters anticipated, but it's a big jump from Double-A to the Major Leagues -- even for an athlete branded as the No. 1 prospect in the game by multiple operations, including MLB.com.
"This is for today," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said when asked about Vernon Wells roaming center field for the series opener against right-hander Alexi Ogando. Texas has lefties Derek Holland and C.J. Wilson to follow, heightening the odds that Trout, a right-handed hitter, will return to the lineup.
"I don't think it's frustrating at all," Scioscia said when asked about Trout's early offensive struggles while playing excellent defense. "He hasn't been overmatched. He's hit some balls well. That's a good sign."
Bourjos ran at "about 60 percent as a touch and feel," Scioscia said on Tuesday, and he hopes to be ready to go on Saturday in Baltimore when he's eligible to come off the DL.
"He had no discomfort at all and feels strong," Scioscia said. "The first workout is to make sure you can do the minimal. We want him to be ready on Saturday, and we'll see how it goes."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.