Wilmington Evening Journal - August 4, 1980

Rose is No. 2 only in the batting order


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


PHILADELPHIA – Before Pete Rose ever played his first game with the Phillies, people wondered if the 5-foot-11 sparkplug was tall enough to play first base.


"I don't think my height is any problem," Rose said when the question was asked his first day of spring training. "But if it is, I'll grow a few inches!"


Typical Pete Rose.


Throughout his nearly 18 years in the major leagues, Rose has done whatever necessary to get his job done. He has played just about every position and played all of them well. When Cincinnati shifted him from left field to third base, the Reds became world champions.


As the Phils' first baseman, he has been superb. When Danny Ozark asked him to bat third last year, the world's best leadoff hitter moved to that spot without grumbling.


Now, Peter Edward Rose is in a new role. He's batting No. 2 behind the exciting Lonnie Smith, and his ability to adapt to this position has helped the Phillies remain in the thick of the National League East race.


The Phillies whipped the Cincinnati Reds 8-4 yesterday at Veterans Stadium, and the thrust of the victory came from the Smith & Rose one-two punch.


The first three times up, before the Phils broke the game open, Smith got on base – once by a walk and twice by singles. And each time, with the watchful eye of Pete Rose at bat, Lonnie stole second. And each time he scored. His third run, in the fifth, ignited a six-run explosion that finished off Reds' starter Bruce Berenyi and sent many of the sweltering fans to the exits for cooler surroundings.


Smith now has 10 straight stolen bases and 17 of 18 for a team-leading total of 20. He has stolen 16 bases since June 22 and scored after 13 of them. Throw in his .348 batting average in 59 games and you have one of the most electrifying rookies to arrive in South Philadelphia in years.


But what most people do not notice is the fact that much of Smith's success can be traced to the fact Rose bats behind him. Oh, Lonnie has to steal the bases and Lonnie has to get the hits, but if the No. 2 batter does not have the discipline and the willingness to sacrifice his own statistics, it's difficult for the leadoff batter to do what Smith has been doing.


"Having Pete Rose batting behind me is really helping," emphasized Smith. "He's such a disciplined hitter. He has such a good eye. He's willing to sacrifice a swing or even give himself up completely if it means I am going to get in scoring position."


"I've never been in this role before; I was always the leadoff hitter," said Rose, who has 116 hits with 61 games to go. "I'm up there sometimes giving myself up to get him over to second or third base. But with the guys bringing him in after me, it doesn't matter. It's always good to get that first run.


"In this role, I have to be more patient and I'm pretty patient to start with. He runs on his own, so I cannot rely on the signs. I've told him not to worry if I'm taking two strikes. There are certain pitchers in the league I can take two strikes on because when I'm swinging the bat well, I'm a better two-strike hitter than I am hitting 2-0. I'd much rather hit with a man on second than a man on first. I guess the biggest thing is you cannot be over-anxious in that situation. You have to always be thinking about the pitchout."


Rose says the one thing about having Smith on base that helps him is that the opposition is aware of his speed and his threat to steal.


"That means the infielders will be breaking toward the bag, giving me a better chance to hit the ball through," said Pete, whose three-hit day yesterday improved his average to .292. "On the other hand, with a man on second and nobody out, I sometimes get myself in trouble. Instead of using my natural swing, I tend to try to pull the ball. I try to do things I don't ordinarily do. I have to watch myself.


"Lonnie adds a dimension to the top of the order we've never had here before. He likes to run and with Greg Luzinski out of the lineup, we have to play differently – hit-and-run, bunt-and-run, steal bases. We have to do a lot of things other teams do. We cannot play for the home run now. We've only got one guy (Mike Schmidt, 27) in double figures in homers and he's not hitting them right now. And it's tough to rely on one guy to hit home runs. We scored six runs in the fifth inning today, but only got three hits. They know Lonnie's going to run, yet they can't stop him. Once today they tried a pitchout and he knocked the ball out of the guy's glove.


"At this stage of my career, I'm not going to be selfish. I don't care; I know the situations. If I think a certain pitcher is going to throw me a pitch I can hit in the gap, I'll swing if he's running. We've done that a couple of times and he has scored from first base. This gives me a lot of options. I just have to stay on top of the situations, taking everything into consideration. If you can get that guy on third, it makes a .320 hitter a .400 hitter.


EXTRA POINTS - Nino Espinosa, who pitched six innings, gained his second victory in four decisions... Ron Reed, who worked the last three innings, recorded his seventh save... Bob Boone's bases-loaded double off reliever Mario Soto broke the game open in the fifth... Schmidt, who is in a deep slump, took extra batting practice after the game... The Phils are behind last year's attendance total by 224,908. They're averaging 33,716 for 53 dates, which projects to a season total of slighltly more than 2.6 million... The Phils are 7-3 on this home stand with three games remaining with St. Louis... Today is an open date.