Wilmington Morning News - April 9, 1980

Christenson’s finally ready for ‘best ever’


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Sometime last fall, Larry Christenson made up his mind 1980 was going to be his year.


"I was recovering from surgery (removal of a bone spur from his collarbone) and decided to work my butt off getting in shape and take it from there," said the right-handed pitcher.


Christenson was on schedule when the Phillies went to Lakeland March 20 for an exhibition game with the Tigers. With two out in the third inning, Jason Thompson rifled a bullet off Larry's left leg. The blond right-hander 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 the hard-luck 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 an remarkable recovery. He has been throwing for more than a week and has been named the starting pitcher for Sunday's game against Montreal.


"I don't think I am any farther behind than the other pitchers," Christenson said after yesterday's long workout at Jack Russell Stadium under a hot sun. "I will be ready to take my turn against the Expos."


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 he 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."


EXTRA POINTS – Jimmy Carter was sending an Air Force jet to pick up Pete Rose at Tampa International at 6 o'clock this morning... Rose, as national chairman, will help kick off a U. S. Savings Bond drive at a White House breakfast later this morning... He is following Bob Hope and Muhammad Ali as chairman... Roger Freed, who was signed to a triple-A contract by the Phillies on Monday, worked out with Oklahoma City yesterday and breaks came with the 89ers today... Mike Anderson also was expected to join them... The Phils will work out shortly after noon today, then catch a flight from Tampa to Philadelphia, arriving at about 6:45 p.m. Green says he is just about set on having Garry Maddox bat in the No. 3 slot opening day.

Baseball talks… they’re talking


By Hal Bock, AP Sports Writer


NEW YORK – Negotiators for both sides in the baseball contract dispute met for 4½ hours yesterday in an atmosphere termed cordial and constructive by a federal mediator.


"We explored a lot of issues," said mediator Kenneth Moffett.


The session was the first of seven scheduled to take place the next three weeks. Moffett was quick to put the session in perspective.


"I would not suggest a tremendous amount of progress was made," he said. "But there was amplification and explanation of issues and I'd say it was a good session. I have a positive feeling. You always do. We'll just keep plugging."


According to Marvin Miller, executive director of the Players Association, the session was concerned with management responses to modified player proposals that had been presented on March 18. Miller said much of the time was spent "going over the same ground again and again."


The amended proposals included items such as minimum salary and time limitations for free agents. Miller was angered that management had not responded to them earlier. In fact, at its April 1 meeting in Dallas, the executive board of the Players Association had reserved the right to unilaterally remove those items from the negotiations.


"At our first session with the mediator, we were asked if we would exercise that right and we said we would not," Miller said.


But the union boss seemed disappointed in the form that management's response to the altered proposals took.


"We made the proposals," he said. "It was their responsibility to reply to them. But their response was, ‘Do you have any lower figures that we might consider?'"


Ray Grebey, chief negotiator for the owners, refused comment on the session, referring all questions to Moffett.


"I'm not discouraged," Miller said, "although this kind of pace is not my preference. I don't think you should pussyfoot around, but it's their approach. I don't see a useful purpose to that slow pace, but we did provide seven weeks to talk. We've used one. I could visualize a far more efficient way of doing things."


At their April 1 meeting in Dallas, the players voted to wipe out the final week of spring training exhibition games and said they would strike on the weekend before Memorial Day if a contract is not reached by midnight, May 22.


Talks will resume tomorrow, when management will continue to comment on the altered proposals offered by the players on March 18.

Latest Kiteman to deliver 1st ball


PHILADELPHIA - Kiteman III, latest in a line of unsuccessful airborne attempts to deliver the first ball of the season at the Vet, will highlight the pre-game ceremonies at the Phils' opener Friday against the Expos.


Kitemen I and II (who tried in 1972 and 73) both failed in their attempts to fly down a ramp and hang glide to the pitcher's mound. Pre-game ceremonies begin at 7:20, with the game starting at 8:05.


According to Bill Giles, Phillies vice president, "There are still some good box seats and reserved seats available" for the opener.


Ticket windows at the Vet are open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9-4 on Saturdays, 10-3 on Sundays. Steve Rogers will face Steve Carlton in the opener.


Other pre-game ceremonies include fireworks, the world's largest hand-held flag, the Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School marching band and the All-Philadelphia Boys' choir.


Tomorrow night Phillie fans will have a chance to see the team warm up at the Vet. Admission is free. The gates open at 6 p.m.