Wilmington Evening Journal - April 14, 1980

Phils expose good young arms in loss


By Rod Beaton, Staff Writer


PHILADELPHIA – Bob Carpenter liked them big, strong-armed and eager. The accent, though, was on big.


The Phillies' owner, who later turned the reins over to son Ruly, encouraged team executives to pursue big, hard-throwing pitchers. The elder Carpenter probably drooled at the thought the Phils might sign the next Don Drysdale.


Who they signed, mostly, were guys like Pat Bayless, Dave Downs and Roy Thomas. But their futures turned out as bright as the decor at dilapidated Connie Mack Stadium. Larry Christenson, 6-foot-4, is an exception, the legacy of that talent hunt.


Now the focus has shifted. The Phillies are pursuing pitchers who can pitch as well as throw hard. And it appears they have one in rookie right-hander Scott Munninghoff.


Yesterday at Veterans Stadium, the old order was followed onto the mound by the new. Christenson, at the tender age of 26, was embarking on yet another comeback from a spring-training injury. Munninghoff, 21, was making bis major-league debut.


For the Phillies, the results were encouraging, though the game result was less pleasant. With veteran reliever Lerrin LaGrow making his Phils' debut, Ellis Valentine cracked a leadoff home run to left in the 10th inning for a 5-4 Montreal victory.


The homer wiped out the Phils' three-run, ninth-inning rally that forced the extra inning. It also bumped the Phillies from first place. Winning two of three games in their season-opening series with Montreal, the Phils trail the first-place Pirates by a half game.


Manager Dallas Green was encouraged, the bottom line notwithstanding.


“I’m not satisfied to be 2-1, " Green said. "I want to be 3-0, but I can t look at it all negatively. Everybody contributed today.


“I thought Larry (Christenson) was pretty consistent. His breaking ball was a lot better than I anticipated. He threw four or five super changes. Will be win pitching like this? Sure he will."


Christenson threw well for four innings, holding Montreal to a run on four hits, striking out four. It all unraveled in the fifth.


Bill Almon. subbing at shortstop for Chris Speier who was out with an abscessed tooth, opened with a triple to left-center. Andre Dawson ended the three-run inning with his first hit of the season, a two-run homer to left.


Dickie Noles, last year's discovery, kept the Phils close with two inning of scoreless relief. Then, is the eighth, Munninghoff took the mound to try to do the same.


He did, giving up one hit and no runs in two innings. His hard sinker and low fastball induced four of six outs on grounders and one on a strikeout. He might have been a winner, but the Phils' rally in the ninth died when Garry Maddox struck out with the potential winning run on second.


Munninghoff, a muscular 6-foot, 180-pounder, joined the Phils from AA ball, spending last year in Reading. The Cincinnati native hardly personifies Bob Carpenter's old blueprint, but the way his stuff torments hitters, he could be from Munchkinland for all the Phils care.


"I didn't really expect to do as well as I have this spring," said Munninghoff, who turned in a 1.00 earned run average with seven strikeouts in nine innings of Grapefruit League work. "I didn't really think I had a chance to make the team."


His three-year, minor-league apprenticeship was a vindication for scout Tony Lucadello, who was undaunted by a minor arm ailment that slowed Munninghoff in high school.


"The Pirates called the night before the (June 1977) draft," said Munninghoff. "They said they'd draft me on the first round. They picked 18th and when they didn’t take me, the Phillies did.


"My arm was hurting at the time. I had pulled some muscle. That might have scared some teams."


Munninghoff scared teams in the minors, but not before it looked like Lucadello and the Phils had made a mistake.


"I had a bad year my first year, at Auburn," said Munninghoff. "I was 0-5. It bothered me, but then we only won 14 games as a team."


Munninghoff's 5.52 ERA didn't help his record or the team's.


The record since has been unassailable: league-leader in complete games (nine), victories (17) and second in ERA (2.30) at Spartanburg; 14-9 with a 3.73 ERA at Reading.


Now he's penciled in as the successor to the injured Warren Brusstar in long relief. Except for Brusstar's sore shoulder, Munninghoff's saga is uncannily similar. Like the sidelined righty, Munninghoff skipped Triple-A ball. They both were starters in the minors, but were converted to middle relief on the Phils. Their characters and repertoires are similar.


"Their stuff is pretty close," said Green, commenting on the comparison. "Both have the smoke (fastball) and a sinker-slider. They're quiet, competitive and get the ball over."


Right now, Brusstar can't reach the plate, let alone get it over. Munninghoff might get a lot of work succeeding him, even if he isn't 6-foot-4.


PHILS FACTS – Bill Almon was 4-for-5 for the Expos and robbed Larry Bowa of a two-on, none-out hit through the middle in the ninth... That fielding gem was crucial since the Phils went on to score twice on third baseman Larry Parrish's error on a Greg Gross liner, then tied it on a single by Bake McBride.