Bad Timing Holds Back Angels' Conger
LOS ANGELES—Opportunity knocked. But Hank Conger wasn't able to answer.
In early May, the Angels were in need of a catcher. Chris Iannetta was hit by a pitch during Jered Weaver's no-hitter on May 2. He tried to play through the injury but, a week later, a re-examination of his wrist revealed a fracture in a small bone. Iannetta had surgery on May 11 and was not expected to return until the second half of June.
But Conger, 24, was in Tempe, Ariz., at the Angels' minor league complex, rehabbing from an elbow injury of his own.
"Obviously that was my first thought," Conger said about lamenting the missed opportunity. "'I'm hurt. There's nothing I can do about it.' "
Those worries were justified. The latest in a long line of injuries that have slowed Conger's progress since his selection in the first round of the 2006 draft occurred as he was holding up on a throw to second base while playing for Triple-A Salt Lake.
"I was pretty worried about it when it happened because during the play I heard a crackle in my elbow," Conger said. "It was a 3-1 (count), 3-2 play. I thought it was a strike so I was coming up to throw down there (on a steal attempt). He (the umpire) called it ball four and I held up."
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound catcher tried to play through the injury for a few days but finally had an MRI in late April, which revealed stretched ligaments in the elbow but no major structural damage.
"That was the biggest relief, once I found out the UCL was fine," Conger said, referring to the ulnar collateral ligament—the target of Tommy John surgeries.
It took four weeks of rehabbing in Arizona before Conger said his arm started to feel sound again. He returned to action with Salt Lake on May 31. Five days later, Angels catcher Bobby Wilson went on the disabled list with a concussion and Conger got a second chance. He was promoted to the Angels and got off to a 3-for-10 start. But with Wilson and Iannetta both expected back in short order, Conger may have little time to make an impression.
• The rotation at Salt Lake has been a patchwork quilt recently after Trevor Bell (elbow) and Brad Mills (shoulder) were lost to injuries in May. No timetable was in place for Bell's return. Mills' shoulder injury was less serious and he was expected back in mid-June.
• First baseman C.J. Cron, the Angels' first-round draft pick in 2011, had a 20-game hit streak with high Class A Inland Empire come to an end June 5. The 22-year-old then went 14-for-36 over his next nine games and was hitting .304/.348/.488 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs in 260 at-bats.