Tag:Jeff Mathis
Posted on: April 16, 2011 10:59 pm

Angels' Conger making most of opportunity

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Hank CongerAngels rookie catcher Hank Conger wasn't the only person surprised on Saturday when he walked into U.S. Cellular Field and saw his name in the lineup for the third day in a row and sixth time in 14 games. Veteran Jeff Mathis noticed as well, and he reportedly had a closed-door meeting with manager Mike Scioscia before the Angels' 7-2 victory over the White Sox.

Mathis then refused to talk to reporters after the meeting.

Conger, though, continued to show why he's in the lineup, going 2 for 4 with a three-run homer and a double in the win. So far this season, he's hitting .286/.375/.619 with two homers in 21 at-bats.

"[Playing time] has been a little bit of a surprise," Conger told the Orange County Register's Bill Plunkett. "As long as I'm here, I just want to make the most out of my opportunities and make sure I'm prepared to play every day."

Out of spring training, Conger was one of three catchers the team kept along with Mathis and Bobby Wilson. Conger, 23, said he expected to be sent back to Triple-A Salt Lake after right-hander Joel Pineiro was eligible to come off the disabled list. Instead, the team kept the switch-hitting Conger.

Scioscia said Conger hasn't won the No. 1 catching spot yet.

"No. Getting a look," Scioscia said. "We're looking for solutions to what was really a rough offensive year for us last year."

The team did trade away a good-hitting catcher in Mike Napoli (26 home runs last season) during the offseason, but Scioscia was not a fan of Napoli behind the plate. So far, he's been impressed with Conger's catching. Conger hit .300/.385/.463 at Triple-A Salt Lake last season. Mathis, 28, is hitting .192/.185/.423 with a home run in 27 at-bats. Wilson, 28, has a single in seven at-bats in his two starts.

Scioscia said the team may keep three catchers for a while, even with shortstop Erick Aybar eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday.

"Right now, it still feels like nothing's really established," Conger said. "You have to perform whenever you get an opportunity. I'm definitely thinking that way, especially after [relievers Kevin Jepsen and Micahel Kohn] going down [to Triple-A].

"Nothing is set in stone. Ever."

Mathis is figuring that out himself.

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Posted on: January 27, 2011 6:34 pm

Conger to compete for catcher's job

CongerAngels GM Tony Reagins showed up on MLB Network Radio Thursday, telling ex-GM Jim Bowden that Hank Conger (pictured) will be competing for the starting catcher's job along with Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson.

Conger, 23 on Saturday, is one of the game's best prospects and is capable defensively of sticking behind the plate. That's important, as his bat can't be ignored. For Triple-A in 2010, Conger hit .300/.385/.463 with 11 home runs in 452 plate appearances.

And he's already the best catcher on the team, so if he doesn't win the starting job, something very wrong is going on with the Angels. Then again, after a series of bizarre decisions in the offseason, something very wrong is already going on, so you can't put it past the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to make the right call.

Manager Mike Scioscia loves Jeff Mathis, and played him repeatedly over Mike Napoli the last few years. It might be no different with Conger, but unlike the heralded prospect, Mathis cannot hit. Period.

For all of the platitudes about his defense coming out of Angels camp, the fact remains: Mathis hit .195/.219/.278 in 218 plate appearances. And the year prior, he had a .211/.288/.308 line in 272 PA. His career OPS across 1,079 PA is .576. He cannot hit, nor will he ever be able to hit.

Meanwhile, Bobby Wilson -- nine days Mathis' junior -- more than 10 plate appearances with the Angels for the first time. He made 109 trips to the plate and hit .229/.288/.417. A darn sight better than Mathis, but Wilson can't exactly rake it, either. The year before Conger handled Triple-A, Wilson had 381 PA at the level and hit .271/.316/.398.

The ideal situation here -- unless the Angels don't care about winning, and whatever you say about their decisions, you can't say they aren't committed to winning -- is to have Conger start, with Mathis backing up. While Mathis might steal the odd game or two from Conger, it will keep the rookie healthy and the Angels can benefit from Mathis' strong defense behind the plate. Wilson might have a nice career as a backup catcher, but for now all he should serve as is insurance.

Now, watch Conger get optioned to the minors, with Mathis starting and Wilson backing up. It's par for the course these days at Angel Stadium.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: January 12, 2011 7:08 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 9:29 pm

Three avoid arbitration

With arbitration figures due to be exchanged on Tuesday, the coming days offer the last chance for arbitration-eligible players to reach agreement on 2011 deals without having to face the sometimes ugly truth of exactly what their teams think they're worth.

Three players got contracts sewn up Wednesday:

* Outfielder Ryan Raburn got a two-year, $3.4 million contract with the Tigers. Rayburn had a big second half last season, batting .315 with 13 homers and 46 RBI in 70 games after the break. In nine years under general manager Dave Dombrowski, no Tigers has even gone to an arbitration hearing (pitchers Joel Zumaya and Armando Galarraga remain unsaigned and arbitration-eligible this year).

* Catcher Koyie Hill, 31, reached a one-year, $850,000 deal to return to the Cubs. Hill has batted just .211 in his four years in Chicago, including a .214/.254/.298 line in 77 games last season, but MLB.com notes that in that span the Cubs are 84-72 in games he has started behind the plate.

* Angels catcher Jeff Mathis, who beat the Angels in arbitration a year ago, got a one-year deal for $1.7 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mathis, 27, made $1.3 million last season, when he started 62 games. Like Hill, he's a weak hitter (.195/.219/.278) with defensive value. The Angels still have six players in line for arbitration.

There are still 123 players who filed for arbitration but haven't signed, according to mlbtraderumors.com.

UPDATE: Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that Rockies reliever Matt Belisle has avoided arbitration with a one-year, $2.35 million deal.

UPDATE: According to the Kansas City Star, pitcher Luke Hochevar also has reached a deal to avoid arbitration.

-- David Andriesen

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com