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03/31/2013 1:31 AM EDT
Conger's pinch HR leads Angels past Dodgers 2-1
LA ANGELS 2, LA DODGERS 1

By JOE RESNICK
Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Hank Conger has had a brief taste of the
major leagues in each of the previous three seasons with the Los
Angeles Angels. The main thing that held him back was his
inability to throw out basestealers consistently.



He's worked out his problems in that regard. And now that he's
been given the job as backup catcher to Chris Iannetta, Conger
is making sure he doesn't squander this opportunity.



He pinch hit for designated hitter Josh Hamilton and smacked a
two-out homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the
Angels a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers in the teams' final
exhibition game Saturday night. It was his fourth homer of the
spring and team-high 16th RBI.



"It was sort of a rollercoaster this whole spring," said Conger,
whose three-run homer in the 2010 All-Star Futures' game at
Angel Stadium earned him MVP honors. "I got off to a good start
this spring and felt good at the plate. Hopefully I can carry it
on into the season.



"I'm really excited. I know there's still a lot of work that
needs to be done, but it's going to be fun. Whatever my role is,
I'll just try to contribute any way possible. I've learned the
past couple of years not to get too ahead of myself and worry
about whatever comes along."



Manager Mike Scioscia likes what he's seen so far, emphasizing
that the improvement the 25-year-old Conger has made defensively
is what enabled him to stick with the club.



"Hank's had a terrific spring and certainly worked his way onto
our team," Scioscia said. "From the offensive end, there's no
doubt that Hank showed he's ready for the challenge of the major
leagues. Defensively, in the last couple of weeks he's figured
some things out mechanically as far as throwing the ball. And
that made him more consistent. He had a rough time early in
camp, but as spring went on there's no doubt that he found his
release point and threw much better."



The teams agreed to end the game after nine innings if the game
was tied. Then Yimi Garcia struck out his first two batters
before Conger drove a 1-0 pitch a few rows into the right-field
seats.



"Just from looking at his warmups, he was throwing three
pitches," Conger said. "Luckily I laid off that slider on the
first pitch, and then I just tried to zone-up and tried not to
chase. In a pinch-hit situation, you want to try to be
aggressive and do something to get the rally going."



Tommy Hanson gave up a run and three hits in 6 1-3 innings and
struck out six in his fifth start this spring, finishing 0-2
with a 5.89 ERA. Ernesto Frieri (2-2) got credit for the victory
with a perfect ninth.



Dodgers starter Zack Greinke threw 81 pitches over five innings,
allowing a run and three hits with five strikeouts in his fourth
spring start. The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, who signed a
six-year, $147-million deal in December, gave up eight earned
runs in 13 innings overall and was 0-1 after coming to camp with
a sore elbow. He made 13 starts last year with the Angels, going
6-2 with a 3.53 ERA after he was acquired in a trade with
Milwaukee on July 27.



Hanson walked his first batter, Carl Crawford, who stole second
and scored on Matt Kemp's sacrifice fly. The Angels tied it in
the third when Iannetta led off with a double, advanced on a
wild pitch and came home on Mike Trout's groundout.



The Angels concluded spring training with a 10-20-4 record.
Albert Pujols batted .333 with three homers and nine RBIs.
Trout, last year's AL rookie of the year, hit .350 with two
homers and 14 RBIs. Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $125
million contract as a free agent in December, hit .267 with two
homers and 11 RBIs.



"I stopped setting goals after the 2010 season," the 2010 AL MVP
said. "If you think about it, you just limit yourself - because
if you get there, then you kind of relax and pull back. At the
end of the season, the numbers are going to be where they're
supposed to be if you're on the field, play safe and play
smart."



The Dodgers finished the spring schedule 13-20-3. Kemp, who
continued to have shoulder issues at the start of camp, hit .250
with a homer and nine RBIs. He underwent surgery last Oct. 5 to
repair a torn labrum and damage to the rotator cuff, which he
injured while crashing into the into the center field wall at
Coors Field on Aug. 27.



"That spring training was pretty long, but I'm kind of happy it
was long because it gave me some time to work on some things and
get that confidence in my shoulder that I need to start the
season," Kemp said.



The Angels start their season Monday on the road against the
Cincinnati Reds in the first interleague game ever played on
opening day. The Dodgers also begin their schedule that day at
home against the defending World Series champion San Francisco
Giants.



NOTES: Clayton Kershaw, who will make his third straight opening
day start for the Dodgers, has allowed just one home run by the
Giants' entire 25-man roster. That was by Brett Pill, who is
beginning the season on the DL after undergoing knee surgery on
March 14. ... With the passing of longtime Angels public address
announcer David Courtney on Nov. 26 at age 56, the Angels filled
the vacancy with Michael Araujo, who has handled those duties
for the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer club since 2002. ... Hamilton
played in 38 games at Angel Stadium with the AL West-rival Texas
Rangers and hit .260 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 150
at-bats. He also played at the "Big A" in the 2010 All-Star
game. ... The Angels begin the season with a rotation of Jered
Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Hanson. The
Dodgers' rotation consists of Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Josh
Beckett, Greinke and Chad Billingsley, who will be eligible to
come off the DL on April 6. ... Angels INF Luis Jimenez was
named recipient of the club's annual Fred Haney Award as the
outstanding rookie in spring training. ... Dodgers OF Yasiel
Puig was named the winner of the franchise's Jim and Dearie
Mulvey Award as their top rookie of the spring.

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