Conger back in action, now an option

Conger back in action, now an option

Conger back in action, now an option
ANAHEIM -- Angels catching prospect Hank Conger returned to action at Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday, after missing more than a month with an injured throwing elbow, and delivered a walk-off single on Friday night.

But that's not the biggest development. It's that Conger, if healthy and back to his normal self, could be an option for the Angels as they wait for starter Chris Iannetta to recover from wrist surgery.

Conger, who had been serving as a designated hitter in extended Spring Training recently, caught his first game Thursday, DH'd on Friday and was expected to be behind the plate again on Saturday.

"Hank's a guy that when he plays to his potential, he's going to be a terrific player," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was working through some things on the defensive end this spring. Now, he feels much better with them, and we'll see how Hank progresses."

With Iannetta out, Bobby Wilson (.181 batting average) has done the majority of the catching and John Hester (.294) has been the backup. Questions have always surrounded Conger's ability defensively -- and he's particularly been working through his throwing -- but few have ever questioned the switch-hitter's ability to hit.

With the Angels, either as a new backup, or perhaps a third catcher, Conger could help a position that currently ranks 26th in the Majors in collective OPS.

Conger, 24, hurt his right elbow while throwing to second base on a 3-2 pitch during the second series of the Triple-A season. 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 and cost him an opportunity to be called up when Iannetta underwent wrist surgery on May 11.

"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," Conger, who played in 59 games for the Angels last year, said in a recent phone conversation. "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 toward the rest of the season."

Iannetta has been throwing lightly with a splint on his right wrist and isn't expected back until late June or early July.