OAKLAND -- Switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger made his way back to the Angels' roster as part of their September callups on Tuesday, bringing to light what could be a tricky decision.
No, the 24-year-old Conger won't take away any playing time from starter Chris Iannetta, who came into Tuesday batting .386 with 12 RBIs over his last 16 games. But this is looking like the offseason when the Angels must make a definitive decision on whether Conger will be a big leaguer for them or trade bait.
It's a decision that could affect whether Iannetta returns next year.
"That'll be something we discuss at the end of the year," said Angels assistant general manager Scott Servais, a former catcher who oversees scouting and player development. "What happens with Hank, what happens with Chris, we'll have to wait to see how the offseason unfolds."
The Angels and Iannetta hold a mutual $5 million option for 2013.
Iannetta, acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitcher Tyler Chatwood in November, has expressed his desire to return. And for the Angels, picking up their half would seem like a no-brainer.
Jerry Dipoto, who wouldn't comment on the decision, traded for him early in his tenure as general manager and Iannetta has essentially been as advertised. Despite missing nearly two months with wrist and forearm issues, Iannetta has built a good rapport with the staff and has given the Angels an on-base ability they haven't had behind the plate for quite a while.
But Conger has been in the Angels' system for seven years now, spending the last three in Triple-A. A right elbow injury limited him to 67 Minor League games in 2012, but Conger posted a .295/.347/.473 slash line and Servais volunteered him as a player who "made some nice strides forward" in the Angels' system.
Conger has always shown the ability to hit, but questions have always surrounded his defense.
Servais feels that's an area he improved on this year.
"There's always things to work out," Servais said. "I just think where Hank's concerned, Hank is very comfortable being behind the plate. We all know he's comfortable in the batter's box, but comfortable being back there working with pitchers, his confidence has come up, his ability to block the ball and catch it, and the throwing has gotten better, as well. Still a ways to go, but he's certainly moving in the right direction."
Still slated for Friday, but Weaver not throwing yet
OAKLAND -- A couple of days removed from taking a liner to the right shoulder, Jered Weaver's status remains unclear. But it's looking unlikely that he'll be able to pitch against the Tigers this weekend.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Tuesday that "nothing's changed" with Weaver, who was hit by a Dustin Ackley liner in the fifth inning against the Mariners on Sunday and was taken out one inning later.
"We'll get some clarity here," Scioscia said, "but from where we talked yesterday, nothing's changed."
And that's part of the problem. Weaver, originally lined up to start Friday's series opener against the Tigers, has yet to throw and spent most of Tuesday afternoon in the trainer's room at Oakland Coliseum, eventually coming out with ice on a shoulder Scioscia called "a little tender" on Monday morning.
Nothing's official yet, but if Weaver doesn't pitch this weekend, it would probably be Ervin Santana starting Friday, C.J. Wilson going on Saturday and Zack Greinke pitching Sunday's series finale, the Angels at least having the benefit of a Thursday off-day to keep everyone on normal rest.
The Angels were originally counting on Weaver, 16-4 with a 2.86 ERA, to make six more starts in September, getting very little extra rest in between in order to maximize the ace right-hander's usage down the stretch.
As part of their final slate of September callups on Tuesday, the Angels surprisingly added Minor League starter Barry Enright to the roster, along with catcher Hank Conger. Enright can provide some necessary depth in case Weaver has to miss time.
"We have to get more information before we can determine whether he's doubtful or not," Scioscia said. "Nothing's changed from yesterday when we talked."
Lefty Maronde could be intriguing component
OAKLAND -- If Sunday's small sample size was any indication, rookie Nick Maronde could become an important second lefty in the Angels' bullpen down the stretch.
Maronde was among those called up the first day rosters expanded on Saturday and made his Major League debut two days later in Seattle, taking over for Jered Weaver with one out, two on and a one-run deficit in the sixth inning, promptly striking out the lefty-hitting Carlos Peguero with three straight fastballs.
Said Maronde: "I was pretty jacked up."
It's manager Mike Scioscia who would be pretty jacked up if Maronde, listed as the Angels' No. 4 prospect, can consistently get lefty hitters out early in games, with fellow lefty Scott Downs being restricted to the very back end of his bullpen. The Angels didn't have that in Hisanori Takahashi, who wasn't particularly good against left-handed hitters and was recently claimed off waivers by the Pirates.
The verdict is still out on Maronde, especially since he's been a starter since the Angels took him in the third round of the 2011 Draft. But Maronde has a very good fastball-slider combo that plays against lefty hitters and spent his final two years at the University of Florida as a closer and setup man.
"I think I'm fairly deceptive to lefties," Maronde assessed. "I don't think they really see the ball that well against me."
As a junior at Florida, Maronde posted a 2.09 ERA in 43 innings, collecting 55 strikeouts and nine walks before being transitioned to the rotation in the pros, where his changeup would get more play. In 2012, he jumped three levels in the Minors, combining to post a 2.26 ERA and a 4.74 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 games (18 starts).
Can he make the transition from starter to situational lefty?
"Nick's got a good fastball, he throws strikes, he has a very low walk rate, he challenges people," said Angels assistant general manager Scott Servais, who oversees scouting and player development. "Obviously, it's happened very quick for him. There's still a lot of things for him to work on. Long-term, is he a starter, is he a reliever? I don't know. I know right now he has a chance to impact and help our club out of the bullpen, and we thought let's just get as many good arms as we can in there and then let Mike decide how he wants to use him."
Minor League left-handed pitcher Yancarlos Santiago was suspended for 25 games without pay on Tuesday following a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Santiago, 21, had a 5.91 ERA in 15 games for the Rookie-level Orem Owlz.
Minor League outfielder Jeremy Moore, who underwent hip surgery in March, was recently rehabbing in Arizona and plans on playing winter ball.
The Angels added switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger and right-handed starter Barry Enright on Tuesday, putting their active roster at 33 and likely marking the end of their September callups. The Angels previously added lefties Nick Maronde and Andrew Taylor, infielder Andrew Romine and catcher John Hester, with center fielder Peter Bourjos being activated off the disabled list.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.