Conger misses callup opportunity with injury

Conger misses callup opportunity with injury

Conger misses callup opportunity with injury
SEATTLE -- The messages began rolling in for Hank Conger on May 11, the day Angels catcher Chris Iannetta underwent right wrist surgery and John Hester was called up to take his place on the roster.

"People were like, 'Where you at? Why aren't they calling you up?'" Conger recalled.

And that's when the Angels' prospect catcher would have to explain that he's on the Minor League disabled list, rehabbing a right elbow injury that dates back to the second series of the Triple-A season and has had him on the shelf for more than a month.

"Just bad luck; bad timing," Conger said in a phone conversation Friday. "But what I was talking to our trainers and physical therapists about is that I can't really rush it. If I try to rush it, and then I try to come back because I'm worried about trying to get called up, and then I come back and hurt it again, I'd really regret that."

Right now, though, it's the 24-year-old Conger who regrets not getting this chance to be called up to the Majors for a third straight season. And perhaps it's the Angels, who heading into Friday's game had received a collective .199 batting average from their catchers -- and only three hits since May 14 -- that are regretting it, too.

Conger may still be a project behind the plate, specifically with his throwing, but few have ever questioned the switch-hitter's ability in the batter's box. With the Angels, he could've perhaps formed a temporary platoon with the right-handed-hitting Bobby Wilson.

"I definitely want to try to get up there to try to help the team, but at the same time, I have to make sure I'm 100 percent," said Conger, who was hitting .357 in his first 13 games of 2012 and has compiled a .300/.362/.469 slash line in seven years in the Minors. "Especially with the elbow, that's a very sensitive thing where you have to really make sure you're 100 percent and not letting it linger towards the rest of the season."

Until Iannetta returns -- his estimated recovery time was initially 6-8 weeks -- the Angels will continue to go with internal options behind the plate, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Conger suffered the injury while throwing to second base on a 3-2 pitch. The umpire called a ball on an attempted steal, and instead of throwing through, Conger pulled back and "heard a loud crackle" in his elbow, which eventually forced him out of game action past April 21.

For a little over a week now, Conger has been serving as a designated hitter at extended spring workouts in Tempe, Ariz.

Just recently, he began throwing to bases and says his arm "feels really good." By next week, Conger anticipates returning to games. And with Iannetta still a couple of weeks away from doing any strength exercises on his wrist, he may still have a chance to get called up before Iannetta is activated.

But Hester, a 28-year-old with big league experience, has done an admirable job getting up to speed with the Angels pitchers. And Conger has a lot to prove before he's an option to be promoted.

"I'm just going to do the best I can to get back on the field," Conger said. "That's all I can worry about."