Reading Eagle - April 6, 1980
Green Happy With Workouts
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
CLEARWATER – “I’m very pleased with the way the workouts have gone,” said Manager Dallas Green of the Philadelphia Phillies after three days of strike-influenced practice.
“These were the hottest days we’ve had, and we’ve had 100 percent cooperation”
Indeed, the Phillies had better than 100 percent for their workout Saturday. Participating were Rawly Eastwick and Mike Anderson, cut Friday but hoping to find a spot elsewhere in the bigs. (Doug Bird had flown the coop at the earliest opportunity.)
“The guys have gone about their work like they want to get something out of it,” Dallas emphasized.
“We’ve had more chatter out there than we did earlier,” said Paul Owens, the general manager. “The guys look like they’re happy. They’re working hard.”
“We’d have worked on our fundamentals anyway,” said Green. “We’re just going to get a lot more batting practice.
“Because we’re organized (a strong point with Green) and because we’re 100 percent in cooperation, we’re gonna maybe be better off than a couple of other clubs.
“But don’t forget the two clubs we’ve got to beat – Pittsburgh and the Cardinals – they’re still together, so you can’t give us too much of an edge on this.”
Pitchers Need Work
Green admits that the fact that his starting pitchers – all with one question or another except Steve Carlton – didn’t get to pitch in regular games this week could hurt the Phils.
“If we’re gonna get hurt, that will be the place it will be,” said Green. “They weren’t in the consistent grouve that will give us the momentum to carry us into the season.
“We just have to assume that that’s gonna happen now.
“Our starters have proven in the past they can win, and win big. Right now we’re struggling with consistency, and I understand that.
“I can’t explain whether it’s the time of the spring training, or whether it’s just in fact that we still have pitching problems. I prefer to believe that it’s just the time of spring training, that we’re slowly getting our act together.
“We’ve finally gotten out of Ruthven’s head that he doesn’t have arm problems. All we’ve got to do is work on consistency. He never had a control problem before.
“Lerch is a little bit more of a concern, because he is a worrier. We can only eliminate that when we get the rotation set up, and prove we’re gonna run him out every turn.
“I have no qualms about Christenson as a pitcher. In the situation in which he is, mentally he wants to have a helluva year.
“Espinosa we can’t talk about, since he’s disabled. But don’t sell the two kids short. If anybody falters, Noles and Munninghoff can pitch.
“Noles proved that last year, and our guys like to play behind him. Munninghoff doesn’t seem to back off or scare.”
So maybe there isn’t quite as much reason for the Phillies fans to be backing off as the new season dawns.
Phils’ Rookie Additions Surprise Everyone
By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
CLEARWATER – “I was really surprised,” said Scott Munninghoff.
“It was definitely a surprise,” said George Vukovich.
“Surprised? When spring training started, I didn’t know Scott Munninghoff and George Vukovich existed,” said Mike Schmidt.
The 1980 Philadelphia Phillies are still five days from playing their first game, but you can already call them the surprising Phillies.
Five rookies (Vukovich, Munninghoff, Luis Aguayo, Keith Moreland and Lonnie Smith); two midseason call-ups in ’79 (Kevin Saucier and Dickie Noles), one guy who last started a season in the majors in ’75 (John Vukovich) and one free-agent signee (Lerrin LaGrow) certainly give the club a new look, and bear out Dallas Green’s desire to “change a few faces.”
At the same time, Green’s desire to give the veterans a second chance is borne out in that returning are the eight regulars, two top pinch-hitters, five starting pitchers and two top relievers of the team as it stood last April (thought one pitcher, Nino Espinosa, is of course disabled).
Two At Once
Never in the history of the Reading Phillies (formed in 1967) had a player jumped directly from the R-Phils to the majors at the start of the next season. No, in one swoop, we’ve got two.
(Two came close. Tom Underwood went up directly in August ’74 and started ’75 in Philly, but he did get in three games in AAA in late ’74. Warren Brusstar went to Philly in April ’77 after being at Reading in ’76, but he did get in two games in AAA before the call.)
G. Vukovich, who hit .293 with 88 RBI and 13 homers at Reading, and Munninghoff, who was 14-9, 3.73, are proof that spring-training stats can change people’s minds.
Vukovich hit .364 with four doubles among his eight hits in official games this spring, and Munninghoff had a 1.00 ERA with seven strikeouts in nine innings.
“Munninghoff will pitch wherever I need him,” said Green (long relief is most likely), and George Vukovich has proven to me that he can handle certain left-handed pitchers (George bats left-handed). George could also pinch-run (he stole 16 bases at Reading).
“We wanted to go with the best 25 players we had.”
Vukovich’s addition is more surprising in that pitchers seem able to go up faster, and because (unlike Munninghoff) he wasn’t even on the 40-man winter roster, and could have been drafted last December.
“I was pretty disappointed when I wasn’t protected; I thought I’d proved myself,” said George. “But I realized that with their pitching problems, they had a lot of young pitchers they had to protect. So I kind of forgot about that when they invited me down as a non-roster player (five others, including John Vukovich, got those invites).
“I was a little disappointed that no one drafted me. I would have been nice, because I figured I would have had a better shot (he’d have had to stay in the bigs or be offered back). But I’ve got no hard feelings now.
“When I came down here, I never realized I’d have a shot. But after the second cut (when John Poff and others went), I realized that I had a good shot. It was nice getting the word directly from Ruly Carpenter.”
It’s been quite a spring. He became a father for the first time two weeks ago.
George feels he improved on his ability to hit left-handers this past winter in Venezuela. He improved on his ability to hit both types in the last two-thirds of the Eastern League season. Throw out games before June 5, and George hit .325, with 65 RBI in the last 89 games.
George was the Phils’ fourth-round draft pick in ’77, out of Southern Illinois. He hit .311 at Peninsula in ’78.
But it’s certainly surprising that Munninghoff is up there, too, considering that just two seasons ago he was four steps from the majors at Spartanburg. And in 1977 he was going 0-5, 5.52 in the New York-Penn. Only Larry Christenson has gone up faster among draftees out of high school.
“I’m really surprised because they had to get rid of two pretty good pitchers to keep me,” said Munninghoff, the Phils’ first-round draft pick in ’77. After each cut came by, I felt I had a little better chance, but I didn’t expect this. Dallas Green being the manager definitely helped me. I was very lucky.
“I made big progress in the Instructional League last year, where I was 5-0. Billy Connors (then the minor league pitching coach) worked on my mechanics. I had a tendency to throw with my arm, instead of dropping and driving.”
Scott says he’ll be striving for more “consistency” this year. “Last year I didn’t throw as well some days as others,” he pointed out.
True. Of his 26 starts at Reading, he gave up three or fewer earned runs in 19. But had had four in which he gave up seven.
Scott says the biggest thing he notices about the big-league hitters is that “they’re willing to take a strike to get their pitch.”
He figures his arm is the type that will permit him to start one time (which he may if the regulars throw like they have down here) and relieve another. Though he’s never relieved in a game in the minors, the way his ball sinks could make him a good reliever, if he improves his control over the 4½ walks per game he issued last year. (He walked only one this spring.)
.196 At Reading
Smith and Moreland were known to have made this club last year, but the fifth rookie, Aguayo, is also abig surprise, if you consider that he hit only .196 at Reading two years ago, and was moved around the infield last year at Oklahoma City, playing only 113 games. (He hit .273.) He hit .241 this spring.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this; nobody will outwork him,” said Green. “He’s always smiling. He’ll create an atmosphere of competition which I think is good for us.”
“I wasn’t thinking of this when I came down here,” said Luis, who can play second or short. “I’ll be happy any place they send me.”
How discouraged was he over that year at Reading?
“They tell me everybody have bad years. So I started working on my hitting. They leave me alone last year – at Reading they were with me every day, trying to change my style. I learned to hit to right field last year, and to stay back. I hit .290 last two months.”
Luis, 21 last month, says he has no worries about big-league pitchers.
“It’s all the same; I’ve seen them in winter ball (in his native Puerto Rico). I just got to keep working hard and be ready when they need me. When I told my family, they just said, ‘Keep working hard.’
“Dallas Green was good for us. Danny Ozark – he don’t like younger players.”
It was ironic that for a time this winter it appeared any chance Luis had was dimmed by the possible acquisition of utilityman Billy Smith from Baltimore. But Green was adamant that he wasn’t giving up Lonnie Smith for him, as the O’s wanted.
The day Luis got the good word, the papers carried the announcement that Billy Smith had been cut.
As Luis says about his advancement, and the retention at Oklahoms City of his Puerto Rican mates who outhit him in ’78 at Reading – “That’s life.”
Players Swap Picket Signs For Bats, Gloves Wednesday
New York (UPI) – It appears baseball players will be throwing strikes instead of organizing one and carrying bats rather than picket signs after all.
At least that will be the case for the first six weeks of the season.
The Major League Players Association, stymied in its attempt to reach a new basic agreement with the owners, agreed last Tuesday to stage a work stoppage during the remainder of the exhibition season, but to start the regular season on schedule.
However, if by May 22, a new contract has not been reached, the players have threatened to strike the next day.
As far as the fans are concerned, though, it will be “Play Ball” on Wednesday with the traditional openers in Cincinnati and Seattle.
The defending National League East (sic) champion Reds will host the “new look” Atlanta Braves in the NL opener at Riverfront Stadium, beginning at 2:30 PM EST, and the Mariners will entertain the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL opener at 10:30 PM EST.
There are nine more home openers on Thursday’s schedule and by April 22 all 26 clubs will have opened their home seasons.
Large crowds are expected at the Cincinnati and Seattle home openers, and if the four divisions are as hotly contested as they were a year ago, Major League Baseball can once again expect to break its attendance record. Last year’s attendance topped 43½ million, a seven percent increase over 1978.
Three of the four divisions featured down-to-the-wire races last season and with several clubs making offseason improvements more tight races are expected this year. Six new managers, four in the American League and two in the National, will make their debuts this year.
In the AL, Dick Howser takes over as manager of the New York Yankees; Jim Frey is at the helm of the Kansas City Royals; Billy Martin assumes the head post of the Oakland A’s and Bob “Buck” Rogers is acting manager of the Milwaukee Brewers while George Bamberger recovers from a mild heart attack.
In the NL, Preston Gomez steps in as the Chicago Cubs’ skipper and Jerry Coleman assumes command of the San Diego Padres after eight years as the club’s play-by-play announcer.
Interim Managers Back
There are also five managers starting their first full season with their respective clubs, having assumed command during the 1979 campaign. They are Dallas Green of Philadelphia, Tony LaRussa of the Chicago White Sox, Dave Bristol of San Francisco, Sparky Anderson of Detroit and Dave Garcia of Cleveland.
Last season, for the first time since divisional play began in 1969, none of the defending champions repeated and, because of major player shifts during the winter months, it will be difficult for the four champions to retain their titles.
The Pirates, despite the loss of pitcher Bruce Kison to free agency, remain the team to beat in the NL East, but the additions of outfielder Ron LeFlore to the Montreal outfield and Bobby Bonds to the St. Louis outfield make the Expos and the Cardinals strong contenders. Philadelphia, wrought with injuries last year, has a veteran club which should also figure prominently in the race.
Pitching will certainly be an important factor in the NL West, with the Los Angeles Dodgers acquiring Don Stanhouse and Dave Goltz and the Houston Astros purchasing free agent Nolan Ryan. The Dodgers and Astros will battle the defending West Division champion Cincinnati Reds for the title.
In the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles return basically the same team which won the division title by eight games a year ago. The AL East, though, is considered the toughest division in baseball and the Orioles will be hotly contested by the Yankees and Brewers.
The Yankees, winners of the AL East from 1976-78, acquired first baseman Bob Watson, outfielder Ruppert Jones, catcher Rick Cerone and pitchers Rudy May and Tom Underwood over the winter in an all-out effort to regain their championship form.
In the AL West, the defending champion California Angels once again pin their title hopes on an offense which produced more runs than any team in baseball last season. Kansas City, which adds slugger Willie Mays Aikens to its lineup, and Texas, bolstered by the acquisition of 41-year-old Gaylord Perry, figure to give the Angels a run for the championship.