3/25/2014 5:09 P.M. ET
Conger gets game action at first base
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Add catcher Hank Conger to the ever-growing list of Angels players trying their hand at first base this spring.
Conger has sparingly taken ground balls at first base the last two years and saw his first ever game action there while playing the last two innings on Monday. He joins designated hitter Raul Ibanez (two regular-season innings at first base since 2005), right fielder Kole Calhoun (40 professional games since being drafted in 2010) and potential backup infielder Ian Stewart (zero career Major League games at first) as potential backups to Albert Pujols.
"It's just really to look for a little versatility and some depth," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Conger. "Obviously he's going to catch a lot for us, but he has played first before and he has good hands."
Conger, expected to get less playing time behind the plate than Chris Iannetta, has worked a handful of times on ground balls and pitchers' fielding practice on the back fields this spring and feels he can play it in a Major League game if the Angels get in a bind.
"I guess it's just kind of like an emergency," Conger said. "I'm not imagining getting a bunch of starts over there or anything just to get more at-bats."
Freese not concerned with low spring numbers
MESA, Ariz. -- Angels third baseman David Freese was a late scratch from Tuesday's lineup against the Cubs because of tightness in one of his quads, which means he'll leave Arizona without an extra-base hit. Freese, whose injury isn't deemed serious, finished his first stint of Cactus League play batting .250 in 44 at-bats -- five months after posting only a .526 OPS in 17 playoff games with the Cardinals.
Those numbers don't coincide with how he feels, though.
"I'm liking how I'm driving it," said Freese, who will be in Southern California on Wednesday and is expected to play in the Freeway Series opener against the Dodgers on Thursday. "Obviously I'm not getting a lot of results, but I'm hitting hard line drives for singles. They'll find the gaps in the season. I'm putting some good wood on some balls to right that are getting caught, but I'll take that now."
Freese points to his seven walks, compared to six strikeouts, and notices that he can get "deeper into his base" and use his legs more now that his back isn't bothering him like it did in 2013.
He also recalls the spring of 2012, when he was coming off being the Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series and World Series, then batted only .188 in the Grapefruit League and went on to have his most productive season in the Major Leagues, batting .293/.372/.467.
"Every year it's different [in Spring Training]," Freese said. "It is what it is. You keep working, and when the lights come on, you're ready."
McDonald makes roster, contemplates final season
MESA, Ariz. -- John McDonald was added to the Angels' 40-man roster on Tuesday, officially giving him the utility-infield spot he looked primed for all Spring Training, and his 5-year-old daughter wasn't sure how to handle it.
"She wants Daddy to come home," McDonald said of Jackie, who likes to stress that she's actually 5 1/2 years old. "She said, 'I'm happy for you, Daddy -- sad for me.'"
McDonald is 39 years old now, entering his 16th season, "and my kids are going to pull me back home a little bit more."
"This could be my last year," said McDonald, who had a $100,000 retention bonus that basically forced the Angels to make a decision by Tuesday. "I'm not going to have a press conference to announce it. … I plan on having a great year this year. You never know what can happen. I don't like putting a timetable on anything. I'm 39. I'm not foolish. There is only so long you can play."
McDonald knows he'll play this year, though. He joined the Angels on a Minor League contract in mid-January, entered camp in a two-man battle with Andrew Romine -- now with the Tigers -- for the backup infield spot. Grant Green emerged as a dark-horse candidate, but ultimately McDonald won the job he's held for almost his entire Major League career.
His glove has always been there, but his .321 Cactus League batting average certainly didn't hurt.
"He showed us this week that he's a piece that can definitely help us on the defensive side," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's a magician with the glove. He's really showed well at shortstop recently, and that's something to put a lot of weight on."
McDonald, originally a 12th-round Draft pick by the Indians in 1996, played six years in Cleveland, and a brief stint in Detroit was followed by another six years in Toronto, then 1 1/2 seasons in Arizona before a hectic, live-out-of-your suitcase 2013 season that saw him play for the Pirates, Indians, Phillies and Red Sox -- and collect three playoff shares.
McDonald has averaged 171 plate appearances per season -- regulars get somewhere around 700 -- and batted .235/.274/.327 for his career, but his defense and versatility always led to a job. This was the first time McDonald has entered camp on a Minor League contract.
He feels like he's been fighting all his life, though.
"You come to camp and want an opportunity to show you can still play," McDonald said. "That feeling never gets old. I feel like managers have had to tell me every year that I've made the team. I feel like walking out of that office is always rewarding."
• Asked what McDonald making the team as a utility infielder means for Green's chances, Scioscia said it "doesn't preclude anything. We're looking at a lot of options this week. Right now, this doesn't push him in one direction or another."
• Second baseman Howie Kendrick, who's batting .396 in 48 at-bats this spring, was out of the starting lineup on Tuesday because of a stomach virus.
• Lefty reliever Sean Burnett threw a bullpen session on Tuesday morning, his first since experiencing stiffness in his left arm on Friday, but Scioscia said he's "still not able to get over that hump."
"I think it's obviously a step forward any time you can get off the mound," Scioscia added, "but it wasn't the breakthrough 'pen we were looking for."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.