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Conger competing in Halos' catching logjam

Conger competing in Halos' catching logjam

Conger competing in Halos' catching logjam
ANAHEIM -- For close to the entire season, the catcher position has been a black hole in the Angels' lineup.

The club's primary two catchers -- Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson -- are hitting under .200. A grim reality that often overshadows the duo's stellar defensive work and game calling.

On Thursday, the Angels recalled catcher Hank Conger from Triple-A Salt Lake and optioned pitcher Tyler Chatwood to Salt Lake.

Wilson started behind the plate on Friday, but manager Mike Scioscia said Conger would start on Saturday and Sunday.

"Hank's not going to come up here and sit, he's going to get his playing time," Scioscia said.

Conger was sent down on July 19 after hitting .214 with five home runs and 16 RBIs and struggling defensively. But since the demotion, Conger reportedly has taken strides to solidify his game.

In 27 games with the Bees, Conger hit .300 with five homers and 26 RBIs and improved enough on the defensive end to merit the promotion.

"One improvement that was tangible was his receiving was much quieter," Scioscia said. "Some things got away from him. One of the things was his receiving skills. He was getting jabby, pulling things out of the zone. Just looked like he was fighting himself a bit.

" ... We know from talking with [Salt Lake manager] Keith Johnson and watching video with him that that has been smoothed out, and he feels much more comfortable receiving the ball."

Conger said he noticed steady improvement in his game the past two to three weeks. He's no longer cutting the ball on throws to second base, instead staying on top of the ball with a higher release point.

"It was no secret that it was a little off," Conger said. "I think it was release point, just not finishing throws. I think that was one of the bigger things."

With the addition of Conger, the Angels currently have three catchers on their 25-man roster. Scioscia said they were able to carry an extra catcher due to the two off-days next week that allowed the club to carry one fewer pitcher.

What Conger's addition means for Mathis and Wilson remains to be seen. Wilson has developed a nice rapport of late with Ervin Sananta, while Mathis has jelled with Dan Haren and Jered Weaver. Scioscia, though, does not envision a staff of pitchers with personal catchers.

"It's going to be contingent on how guys are playing," Scioscia said. "Right now it will definitely be contingent on some of the things Hank or Bobby or Jeff do to see who gets playing time."

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