Angels update: Conger to start home opener; Wells looking to find stroke; injury updates
Catcher Hank Conger, the former Huntington Beach High standout who hit a home run in the only other game he has played for the Angels this season, is in the starting lineup for Friday night's home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Conger, who homered and did a good job guiding pitcher Jered Weaver through Tuesday's 5-3 victory in Tampa Bay, will join fellow Orange County high school standout Mark Trumbo (Villa Park) in the lineup. Trumbo will start at first base.
The Blue Jays lineup: CF Rajai Davis, 3B Jayson Nix, RF Jose Bautista, 1B Adam Lind, 2B Aaron Hill, DH Juan Rivera, LF Travis Snider, C Jose Molina, SS John McDonald, P Kyle Drabek.
The Angels lineup: SS Maicer Izturis, 2B Howie Kendrick, DH Bobby Abreu, RF Torii Hunter, LF Vernon Wells, 3B Alberto Callaspo, 1B Mark Trumbo, C Hank Conger, CF Peter Bourjos, P Ervin Santana.
For Wells, it will be his first game against the team that traded him to the Angels in January, the only team he had ever played for. The left fielder will be trying to snap an early funk in which he hit .111 (three for 27) with eight strikeouts in the first six games.
Was Wells pressing, trying to impress his new team?
"No, I was just bad," he said before Friday night's game. "I was terrible. I was missing the concept of hitting the baseball. That means there's going to be a lot of hard-hit balls coming. That's how I see it."
Wells remembered an even rougher start to a season, in 2002, his first full year in the big leagues, when he hit .100 (three for 30) in his first seven games. He finished the season with a .275 average, 23 homers and 100 runs batted in.
"You don't panic in this game," Wells said. "You keep working. You keep taking early batting practice. Once it clicks, it clicks."
In injury news, first baseman Kendrys Morales (broken left ankle) resumed running on a treadmill Friday. Manager Mike Scioscia said the slugger needs to clear a hurdle of running 100% on a treadmill before running on the field.
Reliever Scott Downs, who gave up a run and two hits in a rehabilitation appearance for Class-A Inland Empire on Thursday night, said he felt great and had no trouble covering first base on a grounder to the right side and backing up third on a play. Downs, out since March 13 because of a broken left big toe, will pitch for Inland Empire again Saturday and will probably be activated Monday.
Right-hander Joel Pineiro, on the disabled list because of right shoulder tightness, played long toss Friday and hopes to throw off a mound early next week. The Angels will need to add a fifth starter for Tuesday night's game against Cleveland.
Shortstop Erick Aybar, who has missed three games because of a left side strain, began taking ground balls Friday and should resume batting practice over the weekend. Scioscia said Aybar probably won't need to be placed on the DL, but he is not expected to return until late next week.
Photo: Catcher Hank Conger #16 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is congratulated after his second inning home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field April 5, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Credit: J. Meric/Getty Images