Angels 2, Dodgers 1

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.