After four years of splitting the playing time at catcher between Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, Angels manager Mike Scioscia still has a time-share arrangement at the position. Now, it is Mathis and rookie Hank Conger sharing the workload, with third catcher Bobby Wilson a frustrated observer.
Mathis made his 14th start of the season in Monday's 9-5 loss to the Red Sox. Conger has started 13 times, and Wilson only twice.
Conger has pushed his way into a big slice of the playing time by offering a clear offensive upgrade over Mathis. He is batting .271 with three home runs and 10 RBI, while Mathis is batting .189 (a continuation of his sub-.200 career numbers) with one home run and five RBI.
But Scioscia is using Conger, a switch hitter, exclusively against right-handed starting pitchers, staying mindful of overplaying the 23-year-old.
"One thing we have to be careful with Hank is he's never caught more than 90 games in a season in his career," Scioscia said of Conger, who had a series of injuries cut into his playing time in the minors.
Conger has just three plate appearances (including a walk and a single) as a right-handed hitter.
"We know he's a switch hitter," Scioscia said jokingly. "Hank has won at-bats because of how well he's doing on the defensive side.
"Defensively, if you believe they're interchangeable parts, you can look at some things offensively. Hank's opportunities come mostly from the left side. Right-handed, he's improved a lot. We all feel good about his right-handed swing. It's improved tremendously from when we first saw him."
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