Halos want Conger's arm to catch up with bat

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Hank Conger is earning manager Mike Scioscia's confidence as he bids to be the Angels' backup catcher behind Chris Iannetta.

A veteran of 73 big league games over parts of three seasons, Conger is having a big spring at the plate, hitting .462 (6-for-13) with a double, a homer, and eight RBIs, but Scioscia highlights his throwing as an area of focus this spring.

"As far as his progress behind the plate, it's been very tangible," Scioscia said. "The one area I think we're feeling more comfortable is his throwing. But this spring, it hasn't manifested itself on the field the way we'd like. Just yesterday, his exchange was long, his arm stroke was long, and he really wasn't doing the things that he has improved on, so he was a little erratic throwing the ball yesterday."

Most of Conger's experience in 2012 came with Iannetta on the disabled list due to a right wrist injury, and Conger is hoping to put a package together that would convince the Angels he's ready to crack another Opening Day roster, having made the club out of Spring Training in 2011. He made 48 starts that year and threw out 16 percent of basestealers.

"On the practice field, he's making a lot of strides," Scioscia said. "At some point, you need to bring that consistency to the game, and we're very confident he will. He has to find it. At times, he's shown he can throw the ball with great proficiency, and at times he's been erratic, but it's in him for sure to find that consistency."

Conger has a .979 career fielding percentage behind the dish, compared to Iannetta's .995 spanning a 505-game career. And though he played less than one-tenth of Iannetta's 623 innings in 2012, Conger's small sample size yielded a comparable percentage of catching 25 percent of those attempting to steal against him.

"A catcher has to be able to deter a running game, there's no doubt," Scioscia said. "But that doesn't mean you're throwing rockets right on the corner of the bag every time. There's a level that you need where teams have to either work for their stolen bases or they know the timing's against them. A catcher's tag time will deter them from running. I think Hank has that ability to get to that level. There's no doubt he has the arm strength to control the running game to the extent we would need him. It's really going to be a function of that consistency."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.