Arizona Road Trip: Conger Gets Back To Catching

In addition to sitting down with Jordan Walden, here are some other notes from Angels camp:

Closing Time

Righthander Mason Tobin, whose 2008 season was cut short last June 6 because of a strained shoulder, will be the closer this year at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

The Angels, who signed him for $125,000 as a 16th-round pick from Everett (Wash.) CC in 2007, are banking on Tobin developing a better slider to compliment a fastball that touched 97 mph last year. Tobin spent last season at low Class A Cedar Rapids but was 2-3, 3.13 with the same number of strikeouts and walks (18) in 37 innings.

“If he does what I think he can do, I see him moving fast,” Angels pitching coordinator Kernan Ronan said. “His fastball was 94-95 mph the other day in a big league game. It’s explosive. When he’s down, he’s really got some heavy sink. And when he gets under it, it has some run. But he’s fun to watch.”Conger Catching

Hank Conger, who didn’t debut last season until May 31 and caught only 10 games, is back catching this spring. He’s missed time because of a string of hand, back, hamstring and shoulder injuries since signing fro $1.35 million as a high school first-rounder in 2006.

“If he’s healthy and ready to go, he’ll go to Arkansas,” farm director Abe Flores said. “If there are any concerns about his injury, he’ll go back to Rancho, just as a precautionary. We want to keep him on the field.”

Reckling to Rancho
Imagine the rotation at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga early this season: The top two arms could be righthander Jordan Walden and lefthander Trevor Reckling, who as a 19-year-old in the low Class A Midwest League was 10-6, 3.37 with 128 strikeouts (and 59 walks) in 152 innings.

Reckling has been picking Walden’s brain and watching the way the righthander carries himself in camp.

“A real cool guy,” Reckling said of Walden. “I try to watch how he pitches to guys. You see the difference.”

Injury Update

The Angels expect 2007 first-round supplemental pick Jon Bachanov to start pitching in extended spring training next month. Because he the righthander had Tommy John surgery, he has not pitched in a regular season game since signing for $553,000.

Third baseman Matt Sweeney, who missed all of last season because of an ankle injury, is back playing this spring and likely headed to Rancho Cucamonga.

The Angels also are optimistic that they’ll see Young-Il Jung throwing in games in June. The South Korean righty also missed time because of Tommy John surgery.

Unfortunately, it’s not all optimistic news for the Angels. Luis Jimenez, a 21-year-old third baseman and rated as BA’s No. 26 Angels prospect, has had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. In his U.S. debut last year, Jimenez led the short-season Pioneer League in homes (15), doubles (28) and extra-base hits (49).