Philadelphia Inquirer - August 6, 1980

Rain leaves Phils' pitching plans cloudy


By Jayson Stark


Since there were about 200 people sliding around on their field in an ocean's worth of rain at the time, the Phillies didn't play baseball last night.


Their game at the Vet with St. Louis was rained out and will be replayed as part of a twi-night double-header Sept. 12.


There is one thing you can always count on rainouts to accomplish, of course. And that is to jumble about two weeks' worth of carefully devised pitching plans.


Dallas Green sat at his desk trying to set all that straight last night. Not only does he have two more games with the Cardinals to worry about, there is also the matter of four weekend games in Pittsburgh.


Does he move Steve Carlton back a day so he can pitch Friday? Does he activate Larry Christenson and pitch him Sunday? Does he throw Randy Lerch out there one more time against all those lefthanded bats in Pittsburgh?


Uh, the answers to those questions are, in order, no, no and yes.


Carlton still goes tomorrow against the Cardinals, even though he is the only Phillies pitcher to have won in Pittsburgh since April 18, 1979.


Christenson may be off the disabled list by this weekend. But he undoubtedly will begin the hike back from the bullpen, because "he's not going to do it by going nine innings, that's for sure," Green said.


And finally, there is Lerch, who will pitch Sunday even though Green announced he had removed him from the rotation three weeks ago.


"I just need a pitcher," Green shrugged. "And I know he's pitched pretty well against them. And I would prefer a lefthander against them if I need to find a pitcher, which I do."


The developments, in order:


CARLTON – Green insisted before the nongame that he had never even considered dropping his ace back a day, just for the Pirates' sake. But when his dugout started getting flooded, then he at least considered it.


"Yeah, I did, but (Dick) Ruthven (last night's scheduled starter) aired it out pretty good," Green said. "He was ready to pitch. I just think he'd feel better with the extra day."


Ruthven will pitch Friday in the opener in Pittsburgh. Carlton stays on his every-five-days schedule because Green is more committed to the maintenance of order than he is to winning one game in one city on one day in August.


"If this were the last week of September or the first of October, and we were playing Montreal battling for a pennant, that would be one thing," Green said. "But it's entirely loo early to get into that situation now, and I'm not going to.


"I want to stay within the five-day "situation with Lefty. His training habits and his preparation – mentally and physically – depend on his knowing exactly when he's going to pitch. And I would prefer not to fool around. I've seen too many times when you push guys back and it tailed that it's not even funny."


CHRISTENSON – He was was last seen being wheeled into the operating room May 27. But yesterday afternoon, minus a bunch of bone spurs in his elbow, Christenson was out on the mound again, throwing to living, breathing hitters.


The Phils righthander tossed up 60 batting-practice pitches to assorted scrubeenics before the floods came. And when he was done, it was pretty clear he is almost ready to help again.


Green said Christenson "threw hard," that he "looks all right," that he is "right on schedule" and that his progress is "encouraging."


"His breaking ball is still a little slow coming around, but that's natural," Green said. "And his fastball looks real good. His control is all right, too, especially for a guy who has been away as long as he has."


So the question facing the Phillies now is where, when and how to use Christenson when he returns.


Green said he will huddle with Christenson and the trainers later this week to determine when to reactivate him. The rest, he said, "I really don't have any great thoughts on.


"I may want to start him in the bullpen," the manager said. "I could use him for a strikeout guy, or pick a spot where we can get him loosened up to where we could get him to face one, two, three hitters.


"I really don't know what's best. I've toyed with that thought. Or then I might just go ahead and start him. You know, I've toyed with the idea he could be a bullpen man anyway. But with his arm, I 'just don't know whether he could handle it."


Green said Christenson probably could give him five or six innings right now, although he would have to throw mostly fastballs and change-ups.


LERCH – He will pitch Sunday because, as Green said for about the thousandth time, "I still feel down deep he's going to have to do it sooner or later."


Green said he and Lerch had a chance to talk last week after Lerch had been knocked out of a game with the Astros and Green had been ejected.


 "We had about a 45-minute talk," Green said. "I told him I knew it was frustrating for him. And 1 wanted him to understand it was frustrating for me, too.... He exchanged ideas as to how we might work with him better. And I exchanged some of my ideas as to how he could work better. I think we had a pretty good understanding."


Green reiterated that none of Lerch's problems are mechanical. "They're all mental," he said. Green said he told him that, "and if he can't understand it, that's not being able to look in the mirror."


But the manager also said, "I don't want to bury him. And I don't want him to bury himself. The thing he has to do is convince his teammates and convince himself he can be competitive. And the way he can do that is go out and do the job once and then back it up the next time."


NOTES: Green said he would not get into a debate over who would play when Greg Luzinski comes back, the Bull or Lonnie Smith. "I can't look into the future," he said. "By then six guys are liable to be hurt. (Laugh) What would I do? I know what I'd do. But I ain't telling."... Phils pitching looks this way: Bob Walk tonight, Carlton tomorrow, Ruthven Friday, Nino Espinosa Saturday, and Lerch and either Dan Larson or Walk on Sunday. Cardinals pitching for the series: Bob Sykes tonight, last night's starter John Fulgham tomorrow.