Wilmington Evening Journal - April 9, 1980
Phils’ Christenson ready to pitch after recovering from leg injury
By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Having recovered from a stunning injury, Larry Christenson is satisfied he's ready to take his pitching turn when he faces the Montreal Expos at Veterans Stadium Sunday.
After a workout under a hot sun at Jack Russell Stadium yesterday, Christenson said, "I don't think I am any farther behind than the other pitchers."
Christenson was felled in an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers at Lakeland March 20 when Jason Thompson rifled a bullet off Larry's left leg. The blond righthander crumbled to the ground in agony.
"When Thompson hit me in the knee I went flying up in the air, and all through the air I could feel a pulse start to throb where the ball hit. By the time I hit the ground I was sure something was broken. I felt a mushy sensation in there."
It was only a severe bruise, but the injury made Christenson a question mark for the beginning of the season he was hoping would be his best ever.
Now, thanks to the work of trainers Don Seger and Jeff Cooper, Christenson has made a remarkable recovery. He has been throwing for more than a week.
Had the Major League Players Association not voted on April 1 to strike the remaining exhibition games, the other starters would be ahead of L.C. But since there have been no Grapefruit League games for more than a week, most of the pitchers are in the same boat.
"I'm a little concerned about the pitching," said Manager Dallas Green. "No one is going to be able to go nine innings, but that will give me a chance to use a lot of people."
"I think I can give him at least six," said Christenson, whose longest spring stint was three innings. "My control has been pretty good in these game-type situations we have been working in.
"I know I was lucky this time. If it (Thompson's liner) had hit the kneecap, it would have shattered. I must have seen the ball coming at me, but I didn't have a chance. I saw the video-tape replay the other day. My glove went down, but I didn't come close to reaching the ball. I reacted too late."
This time last year Christenson was walking around spring training with his arm in a sling. In February he had fallen off a bicycle during Tug McGraw's benefit caravan through California and fractured a collarbone. Then, after coming off the disabled list, he pulled a groin and was unable to pitch again.
Injuries seem to follow Larry Christenson.
"I don't want to ever go through another season like last year," he said. "I have been down here since Feb. 1, and before I was injured I was in the best shape of my life. It means a lot to me to go into the season healthy. My arm's in pretty good shape. I didn't have good stuff over in Lakeland because I was tired from the heat."
Christenson, only 26, had his best year in 1977 when he was 19-6. The following season he was 13-14 and felt he pitched much better. Last year he was a nightmarish 5-10 with a 4 50 earned run average.
"A lot of things went through my mind in a hurry when that ball hit me." said Christenson. "But that's behind me now. I'm still looking ahead to this season with all the optimism I had when it happened."
Reds’ Seaver hoping to beat Braves, weather
CINCINNATI – Tom Seaver was hoping to win his first opening day game in three tries today for the Cincinnati Reds, but the Atlanta Braves' Phil Niekro and the National Weather Service might not cooperate.
The Reds and Braves were to get the National League's 96th season under way this afternoon in the traditional Cincinnati opener, but the weatherman predicted a 40 percent chance of rain with temperatures in the low 50s by game time.
Icy weather on opening day last year played havoc with Seaver, and the Reds committed five errors in losing to the San Francisco Giants 11-5. In the 1978 opener, rain delays robbed Seaver of his rhythm.
The two contests were "crazy games " recalled the three-time Cy Young Award winner. "I had one in New York, too. It snowed at Shea Stadium." He won six openers for the Mets when he pitched there.
"There's always the excitement of another season getting under way, but really the opening game is lust one of 162," said knuckleballer Niekro, a 41-year-old veteran.
The American League also gets under way with a game in Seattle, where the weather won't make any difference and where the hometown Mariners will entertain the Toronto Blue Jays in a Kingdome battle of 4-year-old expansion teams. Nine more openers are on tap tomorrow, five in the American League.
The Reds didn't make any major trades or sign any free agents over the winter and are hoping to repeat as National League West champions.
The Braves roster includes two new front-line players – first baseman Chris Chambliss and shortstop Luis Gomez. The team also signed relief pitcher Al Hrabosky as a free agent and traded for Doyle Alexander, who has moved into the starting rotation.
"We're almost a completely different ballclub. All the front-office people feel we're much better," said Manager Bobby Cox. "We have a good chance of winning. To a man, our entire ballclub thinks so."
Reds' Manager John McNamara refuses to make predictions.
"The only thing that counts is what you do over the full season," he said.
Baseball is opening under a cloud, but there will be at least six weeks of the national pastime before the next confrontation. The Major League Players' Association has scheduled a strike, if a new basic agreement is not signed with the owners by May 22.
"In reality, you worry about a strike on the morning of the 23rd, not now," Seaver said.
Right-handers Mike Parrott of Seattle and Dave Lemanczyk of Toronto will be the starting pitchers when the American League begins its 80th season before an expected crowd of 20,000. The Mariners will be going head-to-head with the defending National Basketball Association champion Seattle SuperSonics, who host the Milwaukee Bucks in a playoff game at the Seattle Coliseum.
With 109 defeats last season, Toronto had the worst record in baseball. Seattle posted its best record ever last season but still finished 28 games under .500 at 67-95.
The Blue Jays will make their debut under 64-year-old Bobby Mattick, oldest rookie manager in major league history.
Last year's World Series foes get under way tomorrow, both on the road. The world champion Pittsburgh Pirates meet the Cardinals in St. Louis. Elsewhere in the National League, the New York Mets entertain the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the Houston Astros and the San Diego Padres host the San Francisco Giants.
The American League champion Baltimore Orioles are at Chicago, with Boston at Milwaukee, New York at Texas, Detroit at Kansas City and Minnesota at Oakland.
But the most important confrontation of all tomorrow may take place in New York, where representatives of the players' association and the club owners meet in the second of a series of seven meeting over the next three weeks to try and iron out their differences and come up with a new basic agreement.
Federal mediator Kenneth Moffett described yesterday's 4½-hour meeting as "cordial and constructive," but he was quick to add, "I would not suggest a tremendous amount of progress was made."
Baseball talks called ‘cordial’ by mediator
NEW YORK – Today's start of the major league baseball season was nothing more than a day off for the negotiators in the labor dispute that threatens to halt the season just before the Memorial Day weekend.
Talks resume tomorrow between the two teams of negotiators headed by Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Players' Association, and Ray Grebey, representing management.
Kenneth Moffett, a deputy director of the Federal Mediation Service, took a positive view of yesterday's 4Ms hours of negotiations, the second of seven scheduled meetings over the next three weeks.
"The feeling was cordial between the parties," he said. "I'd say it was constructive. I would not suggest a tremendous amount of progress was made."
That seemed to concur with Miller's view. The union chief said the session was concerned with management's first tentative responses to altered player proposals which were placed on the negotiating table March 18.
Those altered proposals included a new ceiling on minimum salaries, dropping the players' demand from one-third of the average salary to a lower figure, and a five-year waiting period for a player becoming a free agent down from the current six-year wait, but up from the originally proposed four years.
"Their response was, 'Do you have any lower figures we might consider,'" Miller said. "Well, we made the counter proposals. It was their responsibility to reply to them, to make a counter offer to them."
Miller seemed annoyed at the slow pace of the negotiations.
"I'm not discouraged, though this kind of pace is not my preference," he said. "I don't think you should pussyfoot around. But it's their approach."
There has still been no discussion of compensation for teams losing free agents. That issue is considered the major stumbling block in the talks.
"It's essential that you talk out an issue before you can agree on it," Miller explained. "Maybe you don't agree today, but maybe you moved closer to that agreement in discussions. But these are not normal negotiations. I find us going over and over the same ground again and again."
Grebey refused to talk with newsmen, referring all questions to the mediator.
Moffett called the climate between the two sides good. "And I think it will continue to stay that way for the next couple of meetings," he added.
Six weeks remain before the May 22 deadline for a contract set by the players at the April 1 meeting in Dallas. Moffett said he thought that might be the reason for the somewhat leisurely pace of the talks so far.
"The big issues have not been discussed, but there's a lot of time and that is a significant factor," Moffett said. "We'll just keep plugging."