Hank Conger is doing things in Houston he never did during his time with the Angels — like playing left field.
The Astros were short on bodies during Wednesday’s 11-3 loss to the Rangers. Outfielder George Springer was unavailable after running into a wall Tuesday while making a catch. It wasn’t announced that he was going on the 7-day concussion DL until Wednesday’s game was already in progress, leaving the Astros with just two position players on the bench.
Conger came in to pinch hit in the seventh inning and stayed in the game in left field for the final two innings. It was his first time playing in the outfield as a professional.
"It was nervous but it was fun," said Conger who didn’t have any balls hit in his direction. "I played a lot of positions when I was younger but to actually play in the big league level with all of the lights, kind of, hitting you and you’re actually looking into the field instead of the catcher’s view looking out, it was a little nerve wrecking."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia never placed Conger in the outfield, but he isn’t surprised by his former catcher’s ability to play a variety of positions.
"He probably loved that," Scioscia said. "He was always telling me he could play third or first."
Those were Conger’s only two innings in the outfield. The rest of the time with his new team has been spent in his usual position, behind the plate. It shouldn’t be expected Conger will be making any more cameos in the outfield when he and the first place Astros take on the Angels in a four-game series that starts Thursday at Angel Stadium.
It’s a homecoming for Conger, who played at Huntington Beach High School and was a first-round draft pick of the Angels in 2006. Until this season, the Angels were the only organization for which he’d ever played. Conger was traded to the Astros during the offseason for pitcher Nick Tropeano and catcher Carlos Perez, who made his major league debut earlier this week. When Conger walked into Angel Stadium on Thursday afternoon, it had a different feel.
"It’s exciting," Conger said of his return. "Good memories, great last season. I went outside and sat in the first base dugout. It was definitely a little different seeing that perspective."