Conger's throwing woes have club looking for backup
Lachemann hopes third time the charm at Classic
PHOENIX -- The Angels, looking to potentially upgrade their depth behind the plate, are in search of a veteran backup catcher, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com on Saturday. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com first reported the Angels' interest.
Hank Conger, 25, came into camp as the clear-cut favorite to back up Chris Iannetta and has hit well, batting .417 with two homers and 11 RBIs. But his throwing woes -- he made three errant throws on Saturday, upping his spring total to at least five -- have prompted the Angels to look outside the organization in hopes of adding coverage.
With rosters being pared down, the Angels will look to the waiver wire to try to add a steady, inexpensive, veteran presence behind the plate, and they have an open spot on the 40-man roster. But the Phillies, Pirates and Rays are also looking for catching help, according to MLB.com's Peter Gammons.
Ramon Hernandez is an interesting candidate. He's owed $3.2 million in 2013, but the Rockies want to move him and may be willing to eat some of that salary in exchange for pitching help. Rod Barajas and Wil Nieves are both competing to be Miguel Montero's backup in Arizona, and the one who loses out could be made available. The same is happening at Royals camp, with Brett Hayes and George Kottaras both out of options and fighting for the backup spot behind Salvador Perez.
And, of course, a host of others could pop up on the waiver wire within the next couple of weeks.
The Angels still believe in Conger, a very solid hitter who has improved on his footwork and receiving skills. So in the event of an acquisition, they're likely to option him to Triple-A so he can find the consistent release point that has eluded him. This is Conger's last option year.
John Hester (on the 40-man) and Luke Carlin (a non-roster invitee) are the other two catchers technically vying for the backup job, but both have been inconsistent in the Majors throughout their careers.
Weaver chalks up rough start to 'dead arm' phase
PHOENIX -- For most starting pitchers, that mysterious "dead arm" phase usually rears its ugly head at some point in spring. And for Angels ace Jered Weaver, it basically happens every March.
"But I think this is a little bit more than I'm used to," Weaver said, after giving up eight runs in two innings against a division-rival A's team he flat-out dominated last year.
"It's weird because you never know if you're going through [dead arm] or not, because like I said, everything feels healthy. But you hear stories about guys having no control and having no feel for what's going on out there, and that's definitely what it was today. It's nice to mix one of those in in spring and get them out of the way before the season starts."
From the get-go, it was clear Weaver simply wasn't right.
Weaver walked the first batter on four pitches, gave up three home runs -- to Josh Reddick, Luke Montz and Yoenis Cespedes -- needed 29 pitches to get out of the second inning and even fell victim to the newly barred third-to-first pickoff move, leading to a balk that brought in another run.
Weaver, who had given up two runs in nine spring innings heading in, left after two frames, got 20 more pitches under his belt in the bullpen and came out happy that none of this really counts. His manager, Mike Scioscia, said his ace is healthy and his stuff is fine, but was searching for his release point.
Weaver's next turn was previously slated to come in a controlled Minor League environment on Thursday, rather than in a Cactus League game against the Rangers at Surprise, Ariz., and Scioscia believes that will do him some good.
After that, he'll have one more start to get ready for Opening Day.
"The only thing that's concerning is when a guy is supposed to be at five [innings] and 75 pitches and he's at two innings and has to go down there to finish his workout," Scioscia said. "Next outing, [pitching coach Mike Butcher] and Jered are going to have to see how he feels and where he can get to, but needless to say this is a guy we're targeting for Opening Day and we need him to have a certain amount of stamina before he gets there."
Weaver is usually good for a rough spring outing or two, en route to his typical Cy Young Award-caliber regular season. He posted a 5.71 ERA in Cactus League play in 2009 and '10, then a 4.08 mark in '11 and a 5.40 ERA in 18 1/3 innings last spring.
His latest dud came against a team that scored one run in 30 2/3 innings against him last year.
"I'm not too worried about it," Weaver said. "Everything will line up accordingly. I'll get my work in and hopefully just wash this one out."
Reliever Cabrera impressing Halos in Classic outings
PHOENIX -- Fernando Cabrera was basically an unknown at Angels camp, spending only a few weeks with his new team and giving up four runs in three appearances before leaving for the World Baseball Classic.
But while pitching for Puerto Rico, Angels coaches have begun taking notice.
Cabrera, the 31-year-old right-hander obtained on a Minor League deal this offseason, hasn't allowed a run while serving as a quasi-closer for his native country, which is off to the championship round at San Francisco's AT&T Park as the Pool 2 runnerup. And though it's only four appearances -- and a grand total of two innings -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia has noticed Cabrera's improved stuff.
"The first couple times he pitched in games and threw bullpens for us, you could see he just wasn't where he needed to be," Scioscia said. "But over the course of some bullpens, over the course of game action, I know his velocity has picked up a little bit. We'll get a chance to look at him at some point."
If Puerto Rico advances to the championship game, Cabrera won't return to Angels camp until Wednesday, at the earliest, giving him eight days in Arizona until the Angels break camp for three exhibition games against the Dodgers in Southern California.
That isn't much time to crack the Opening Day roster. But the Angels have cut several relievers of late and Cabrera has extensive Major League experience, notching a 5.24 ERA in 175 1/3 innings from 2004-10. Last year, he posted a 4.10 ERA for the Mets' Triple-A affiliate.
Assuming Garrett Richards gets one of the two open bullpen spots -- with Scott Downs, Sean Burnett, Kevin Jepsen, Ernesto Frieri and Jerome Williams in, and Ryan Madson starting the season on the disabled list -- Cabrera could compete with the likes of David Carpenter, Mitch Stetter, Nick Maronde, Chad Cordero and Kevin Johnson for the last one.
"Cabrera definitely will have an opportunity to see where he is and move into our depth chart," Scioscia said, "and we'll go from there."
• Reliever Kevin Jepsen hasn't pitched since last Saturday because of tightness in his triceps muscle. Scioscia said it's "nothing to be concerned about" and that it's "getting much better." He expects Jepsen to pitch again this coming week.
• Mitch Stetter, who put up a 4.08 ERA in 132 appearances for the Brewers from 2007-11, is slated to make his spring debut on Sunday. Stetter, 32, mainly a lefty specialist, was obtained on a Minor League deal, but had been rehabbing from a bulging disk in his back.
• Hank Conger's left hand cramped up on him while warming up pitcher Kevin Johnson to start the bottom of the fifth, prompting him to leave the game. The switch-hitting catcher is day-to-day.
• Before Saturday's game, the Angels reassigned starting pitcher Billy Buckner, relief pitcher Robert Coello and outfielder Trent Oeltjen to Minor League camp. The moves leave them with 44 players in Spring Training.
• Long reliever Jerome Williams pitched against Giants Triple-A hitters Saturday in Scottsdale, Ariz., to get his work in, giving up one unearned run in five innings and throwing 51 pitches. His next turn will probably come against the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., on Thursday night, with Jered Weaver pitching in a Minor League game earlier that day.
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.