ANAHEIM -- Hank Conger -- Hyun Choi Conger on his birth certificate -- is moving on up. This has been a breakthrough year for the 22-year-old catcher whose work behind the plate and with the bat has been impressive since his recall from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Conger, most importantly, is 4-0 in his starts with a 1.50 catcher's ERA. He drew Jered Weaver for his Major League debut in Cleveland, driving in a pair of runs with his first big league hit. That was his first shutout. The second arrived on Tuesday night, when he took Ervin Santana through nine high-quality innings against the Rangers. Weaver and Santana both spoke highly about Conger's defense and pitch selection.
"Hank has definitely shown us the ability to do what a catcher needs to do," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, one of the game's definitive authorities on the catching trade. "His next challenge is to do it for a full season and a career. He's shown the tools, caught very well. He's done a great job communicating with the pitchers. He's getting his first taste of it and doing a great job."
Conger's one drawback is his relative lack of professional experience, owing to early-career injuries to his throwing shoulder and back.
"His first couple years, he was banged up," Scioscia said. "He's not even caught 200 games in his career yet. You can have the best instructors in the world, and it's not going to bridge that gap in experience. Hank's going to have to go play winter ball.
"I was 21 when I came up [with the Dodgers in 1980], but I had caught close to 500 games, including winter ball. As he's healed up, he's really emerged into a high-end prospect as a catcher. We'll see where it takes him."