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Conger's pinch HR leads Angels past Dodgers 2-1

Sunday - 3/31/2013, 1:34am  ET

Los Angeles Dodgers starter Zack Greinke delivers a pitch in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday, March 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Christine Cotter)

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.

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