ANAHEIM -- Sunday's third inning brought the latest step in the learning curve for Hank Conger. The Angels' rookie catcher thought he tagged out Dodgers hitter Tony Gwynn, who had whiffed on an Ervin Santana ball in the dirt. Hearing a "yes, yes" from the home-plate umpire -- which Conger interpreted as meaning he tagged him -- he prepared to throw the ball around the horn, assuming the out had been recorded. He was wrong, and a moment later, Gwynn made it to first base before a late throw from Conger. The umpire ruled that his glove never made contact with the runner. Replays were inconclusive as to the success of Conger's tag attempt.
"That was just kind of dumb on my part," he said. Fortunately for Conger and the Angels, the mistake wasn't too costly -- Conger was worried when Gwynn advanced to third after a stolen base and a groundout, but Santana was able to escape the inning with out any damage. Either way, Conger won't be forgetting his latest learning experience anytime soon. The 23-year-old -- named the MVP of last season's All-Star Futures Game after he launched a three-run homer -- said he discussed the play with manager Mike Scioscia. The conversation essentially resulted in a simple lesson: When in doubt, throw it to first base. "You just have to have a field presence to realize, 'Hey, the umpire isn't calling him out.' His hands are still out and you have time to recover and just flip the ball to first base," said Scioscia, a former catcher. "... You have to understand that in some situations there's going to be a learning curve to some of these things. Hopefully Hank will put that one to rest and not have it happen again."