Throwing motion critical for Conger

Throwing motion critical for Conger

Throwing motion critical for Conger
GOODYEAR, Ariz. - Throwing mechanics -- it may be the one thing separating Hank Conger from a Minor League prospect to a Major League catcher.

"I felt like if I could really clean up my throwing," Conger said, "then I'll be making some really good strides here in spring."

Conger, who many still believe could be the Angels' catcher of the future, has had a tendency to get long with his throwing motion and inconsistent with his release point. Like a pitcher, catchers strive to repeat their delivery when trying to gun down would-be basestealers -- except their task is harder since they have to adjust to where pitches are thrown.

"I think the biggest thing was just trying to stay short and not try to rush myself," Conger said. "I think that's the two biggest things. If I'm able to kind of control that, I think my throwing's going to be really good."

Conger has always been able to hit -- he has put up a .298/.361/.466 slash line in six Minor League seasons -- but there have always been questions surrounding his defense. The 24-year-old switch-hitter believes his tempo, receiving and blocking have greatly improved so far.

As for his throwing? Conger played in the Arizona Fall League last year to, as manager Mike Scioscia put it, "find a release point." He then spent the rest of the offseason in Huntington Beach, Calif., working some more on his throwing with bullpen coach Steve Soliz.

"Hank's working hard at that for sure," Scioscia said, "and I think like any catcher, any position -- an infielder, whatever it is -- you have to find that release point to control the baseball. And that's something that experience will help him with."

Conger is hoping improved throwing mechanics can eventually make him an everyday Major League catcher, but with Chris Iannetta acquired in the offseason, that won't happen in 2012. This spring, Conger is in competition with Bobby Wilson for the backup spot, bringing up a longstanding question: Is it best for a prospect to play sparingly in the big leagues, or hone is craft daily in the Minors?

Conger, of course, prefers to be in the Majors. But he has other things to focus on right now.

"I look at where I started, the first day of Spring Training, and now, and I've been getting better. It sounds corny, whatever, but that's how I try to look at it," said Conger, who played in 13 games for the Angels in 2010, then 59 in 2011. "And whatever happens, whether I stay here or go to Triple-A, I'll be able to go to sleep knowing that I tried my best; I gave it my best effort."