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Monday, June 18, 2012
Life at the roster's fringes

By Mark Saxon

As hard as it is to reach the major leagues, it's harder to stick there. Two of the Angels' brightest young players are in the process of learning that lesson the hard way.

Pitcher Garrett Richards, 24, has been dominant in three weeks filling in for injured ace Jered Weaver, going 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA, but could be headed to Triple-A Salt Lake as soon as Wednesday when Weaver returns. And catcher Hank Conger, also 24, was already optioned when the Angels activated Bobby Wilson from the seven-day concussion list Sunday.

"Obviously, you want to be up there helping the team, but I look back on the 10 days I was up and I'm really, really happy with the way I played, especially defensively," Conger said by telephone. He will report to Salt Lake Tuesday.

For the past three seasons, Conger has been shuttling back and forth between Triple-A and the major leagues, largely because he has found it difficult to satisfy the defensive demands of Angels manager Mike Scioscia. While he was filling in for Wilson, Conger threw out two of the seven runners who tried to steal off him (and Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon had three of the steals) and had a 2.25 catcher's ERA.

"He's come a long way," Scioscia said.

Weaver has a pretty good idea what that plane ride could be like for Richards. The Angels optioned Weaver to Triple-A Salt Lake when he was 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in 2006 to make room on the roster for reigning AL Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon. Players with options are always susceptible.

"It's a tough gig," Weaver said. "You try so hard to get up here and you finally prove you belong up here and can pitch at this level. I feel for him. I remember that experience. It made me want to go back down and work harder to get back up here."

Here are lineups for Monday's game, with the Angels facing Matt Cain fresh off his perfect game:

San Francisco
Gregor Blanco RF
Ryan Theriot 2B
Melky Cabrera LF
Buster Posey C
Angel Pagan CF
Pablo Sandoval DH
Brandon Belt 1B
Brandon Crawford SS
Joaquin Arias 3B

Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Mark Trumbo LF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Maicer Izturis 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Wilson C